Taking a stand. JOHN: 2:13–25
By Dr Peter Timothy
Let us begin the reflection by focusing first on a few elements of the text before we move to the contents.
According to the commentary by noted scholar Raymond Brown: “It has parallels in two Synoptic scenes—the cleansing of the Temple (Mark 11:15–19, 27–28) which takes place not long before Jesus is put to death, and the witnesses at the Sanhedrin trial on the night before the crucifixion, who falsely testify that Jesus said He would destroy the Temple sanctuary (Mark 14:58; Matt 26:61; cf. Acts 6:14).
In John, the scenes are combined and placed early in the ministry (An Introduction to the New Testament: Raymond Brown, 340). Brown also gives insight about the fact that this story about Jesus comes so early in the Gospel. In chapter 2, he states: “By showing the antagonism of ‘the Jews’ from the very beginning, John illustrates the utter incompatibility between Jesus and his own who do not receive him” (see John 1:11) (Brown, 341).
This story in the gospel gives an account of Jesus being anything but meek and mild, and for some, may bring about a certain degree of discomfort. But let us try to understand the religious and historical realities of this account.
Cattle, sheep, and doves were required for burnt offerings in the temple. The scene takes place at the time of Passover. Passover is a pilgrimage feast, which means that many coming to worship in the temple would have travelled from very far and would not have brought animals with them.
These people would have to buy animals in Jerusalem in order to fulfil their obligation of temple worship. This accounts for the sellers. The money changers would have been there because the temple tax could not be paid with Greek or Roman coinage. The foreign coins would have to be changed to official Jerusalem currency (New Interpreter’s Bible Volume IX, 543).
Therefore, these people were providing legitimate services.
To be true to the text, we are not specifically told why Jesus opposes these necessary traders, so our Christian interpretation usually will assume extortionist practices of the temple authorities.
But some commentators note that even though there seems to be inevitable abuses of the temple system, some of Jesus’ words illustrate that He is opposing the system itself (NIB Vol IX, 543).
What about you and I? In the last few weeks, men of this twin island state have been called to reflect on our own treatment of our sisters and also on what we may not do ourselves, but what we may tolerate by our silence.
Today’s gospel reading could be a point of reference and /or a new beginning for those of us who have not treated our mothers, wives, sisters, cousins, mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, granddaughters, nieces, stepsisters, employees, bosses, friends, and acquaintances with the respect that they deserve.
Can we make the proverbial whip and drive out from our circles the type of blatant disrespect we show to women in society and the excuse of ‘that is we culture’!
Jesus took a stand against practices that were considered common and accepted as normal in the society. By His action, I am sure that those who witnessed it had to process and interpret what was happening and what they would do going forward.
I think that as men of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Port of Spain, we too have come to such a point considering recent developments. I think it is really a sign of the Holy Spirit working in the Church that Pope Francis declared the year of St Joseph and that we in this Archdiocese are engaged in the 33-day challenge which began Monday, February 15 and ends with the consecration to St Joseph Friday, March 19, the Solemnity of St Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary.
May our reflection on today’s gospel reading enable us to be courageous when we need to be.
The gospel reflections for March are by executive members of the National Catholic Men’s Ministry. Dr Peter Timothy is the Episcopal Delegate for Evangelisation. He is also assigned to teach Caribbean Church History at the Department of Theology (Seminary), Mt St Benedict.
He is one of the facilitators at the Catholic Bible Institute established by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and the Gethsemane Institute of Christian Spirituality and Prayer of the Zion RC Community.
He is celebrating 33 years of marriage to his wonderful wife Subina this July, and they are parents of six children.