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Jesus drives the merchants from the Temple

Jésus chassant les marchands du Temple

1645 / 1650 (3e quart du XVIIe siècle)
Jordaens, Jacob
Pays-Bas du Sud, École de
INV 1402 ; MR 791
Département des Peintures

27 Feb 2024

Third Sunday of Lent

Christ's expulsion of the merchants from the temple is a theme referenced in all four canonical Gospels. In essence, it is a story of frustration and chaos. Middle age scholars suggested that the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden prefigured this particular scene from the New Testament. Isaiah prophesied Christ's zeal for his temple. Having described Jesus Christ [Isaiah 9:6] and what he would do [Isaiah 9:2-7], Isaiah then states: 'The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this' [9:7]. This 'zeal' of God accomplishes the incarnation of his eternal Son. Pope Francis cited the Cleansing of the Temple not as a violent act but more of a prophetic demonstration:

Today’s Gospel, in John’s version, presents the episode in which Jesus drove out the merchants from the Temple of Jerusalem (Cf. John 2:13-25). He did this gesture, helping himself with a whip of cords and overturned the tables, saying: “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade!” (v. 16). This decisive action, carried out close to Passover, made a great impression on the crowd and aroused the hostility of the religious authorities and of all those that felt themselves threatened in their economic interests. But, how should we interpret it? It certainly wasn’t a violent action. So true is this that it didn’t provoke the intervention of the guardians of public order – of the police. No! But it was intended as a typical action of prophets who, in the name of God, often denounced abuses and excesses. The question posed is that of authority. In fact, the Jews asked Jesus: “What sign have you to show us for this doing?” (v. 18), namely, what authority do you have to do these things? As if asking for a demonstration that He was truly acting in the name of God. To interpret Jesus’ gesture of cleansing God’s house, His disciples made use of a biblical text, treated in Psalm 69: “Zeal for thy house has consumed Me” (v. 9); so says the Psalm: “Zeal for thy house has consumed Me.” This Psalm is an invocation of help in a situation of extreme danger because of the hatred of enemies: the situation that Jesus will live in His Passion. Zeal for His Father and for His cause will lead Him to the cross: His is the zeal of love that leads to the sacrifice of Himself, not that false love that presumes to serve God through violence. In fact, the “sign” that Jesus will give, as proof of His authority, is precisely His Death and Resurrection. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” He says (v. 19). And the evangelist notes: “He spoke of the temple of His body” (v. 21). With Jesus’ Pasch a new worship begins, in the new temple, the worship of love, and the new temple is He himself. Jesus’ attitude, recounted in today’s evangelical page, exhorts us to live our lives seeking not our own advantage and interests, but for the glory of God who is love. We are called to always keep present those strong words of Jesus: “You shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade!” (v. 16). It’s awful when the Church slips on this attitude of making God’s house a market. These words help us to reject the danger of making our soul, which is God’s abode, a marketplace,  living in constant search for our benefit instead of in generous and solidary love. This teaching of Jesus is always timely, not only for the ecclesial communities but also for individuals, for civil communities and for society.  In fact, the temptation to take advantage of good activities, sometimes dutiful, is common, to cultivate private if not outright unlawful interests. It’s a grave danger, especially when it instrumentalizes God Himself and the worship due to Him, or the service to man, His image. That’s why Jesus used “strong ways” that time, to shake us from this mortal danger. May the Virgin Mary support us in our commitment to make Lent a good occasion to acknowledge God as the only Lord of our life, removing from our heart and from our works every form of idolatry.

From Vatican City, March 4, 2018
Angelus Address: Jesus Cleanses the Temple of Jerusalem | Zenit - English© Libreria Editrice Vatican.

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