Monday, April 9, 2012

“Cleansing the Temple” Adult Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday April, 15, 2012

Purpose: To claim the possibility of change that brings fresh perspective to life

Scripture Text: John 2:13-22

John 2:13-22 (NRSV)
(13) The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (14) In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. (15) Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. (16) He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" (17) His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me." (18) The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" (19) Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (20) The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" (21) But he was speaking of the temple of his body. (22) After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

In this week's lesson we go backward (after leaping forward for the lenten and Easter lessons) in the timetable of John's Gospel and resume our study in John. Today's lesson immediately follows the miracle of changing the water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana. Only John has this action happening at the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry, the other three (synoptic) gospels have it happening at the beginning of passion week, or at the end of Jesus earthly ministry. Either way is was near the time of Passover and Jesus was in Jerusalem.

The actions of Jesus seem to be almost indefensible, because he appears to attack legitimate business practices that took place in the Court of the Gentiles, that was an area outside the sanctuary of the temple itself. So the question becomes, why?

The business that was being transacted was legitimate. The money changers, offered a service since a temple tax had to be paid by every Jewish male, and it had to comply with a Jewish law that said, it could not be paid with a coin with an image on it. (Exodus 20:4) The moneychangers, as at any International Airport, was offering a service where the travelers could exchange their regular coins for ones that met the requirements of Jewish law. Remember that at Passover Jews from all over the world would travel to Jerusalem and were obligated to pay the Temple Tax.

Likewise they were required to offer a sacrificial offering also, and since traveling from Egypt, Rome, Ethiopia, Spain or Gaul was hard enough without bringing cattle, sheep or fowl with you that would meet the requirements set forth in Jewish law, it was easier to buy an animal that had been sanctified by a Priest from one of the many merchants offering that service to travelers.

Jesus' complaint was that “my Father's house” (the temple) “had been turned into a marketplace.” Today there are protestors that protest against Wall Street, and the way they do business (occupiers). So the question has to be asked, was Jesus anti business?

If we look at a broader picture of what Jesus was saying and doing, I think we can get a better understanding. Jesus was about to change everything, however, it would take some time for all of it to come into focus. Temple worship, as known by the Jews, was going to change forever, no longer would the veil separate, the Holy of Holies from the people, and the need for sacrificial offerings would also cease. Jesus was destroying the old way of doing business and replacing it with a new order, where the need for sacrifices was no more. God was opening worship and forgiveness to all, regardless of wealth or position. Exchanging your coins for acceptable ones would no longer be a problem, traveling to Jerusalem without a “pure” beast or fowl, was no longer a problem. Jesus was turning “Temple Worship” upside down. What Herod began forty-six years prior did not matter, this was not Salomon's Temple, but rather Herod's temple, an attempt to appease the Jews of his day. It truly was being built for selfish and worldly reasons, and it would no longer be a part of worship, because Jesus himself was replacing it. Everything that could be done at the temple could now be done by faith through the grace of God. The only requirements are believing the testimony of Jesus, and the empty tomb.

1 comment:

Katrina, Sunday School Blogger said...

I always have a hard time coming up with relevant, interesting Sunday school lessons for adults. My specialty lies in working with children, so it can be difficult for me to figure out how to relate to grown-ups. So you can imagine how happy I was to stumble across your blog—and this post in particular! Thank you for sharing.