Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Moses receives the Tablets -- Chagall
At first sight the readings for this Sunday do not appear to be connected. What does listing the Ten Commandments have to do with Jesus overturning the tables in the temple? It is true that there is no one clear theme running through these readings, yet they are nevertheless importantly related. Read together they present us once again with a truth that is central to the teachings of Jesus, and to Christian faith in him. The link is to be found in something Jesus himself declared: that he came neither to overturn nor to replace the Jewish Law, but to bring it to its fulfillment. 

The Old Testament reading from Exodus reminds us of that Law as embodied in the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. These commandments create a covenantal relationship between God and his Chosen people. God, for His part, would honor and protect those who kept his Law, but those who did not keep their part of the covenant could expect grief and tribulation. However, as St Paul writes in the Epistle, belief in such a covenant must make the Cross something of a stumbling block to serious Jews. How could Jesus be the complete embodiment of God’s Law -- the Law to which Paul himself remained faithful -- if he ends up executed like a common criminal?

Christ Overturns the Tables -- Spencer
In this week’s Gospel John provides an answer. He places the story of Jesus ‘cleansing’ the temple in Jerusalem right at the start of his ministry, rather than immediately before the story of his suffering and death, which is where the other Evangelists locate it. By this device John  declares Jesus' action in the Temple to be key to the meaning of the Incarnation. 
For the Jews of the New Testament, the Temple in Jerusalem was the focal point of their worship, and the monument to their faith in God. It had, however,  become degraded, so degraded indeed that it desperately needed radical renewal. Strange though it must sound, by this action Jesus declares himself to be its renewal. The Body of Christ is the new temple, and his death on the Cross replaces the daily round of animal sacrifices that took place there. In that death, the whole idea of sacrifice is transformed. The Crucifixion (as the Book of Common Prayer says) is the one, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins, not of the Jewish people only, but for the whole world.

The message is evident. In Christ, everyone everywhere, irrespective of ethnic background and geographical location, is called to enter the company of God’s chosen people, and are able to do so -- if, of course, they choose the path of penitence and faith.

No comments:

Post a Comment