Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Lent 3, Cycle B

Within Series B of this lectionary, the Gospel account for next Sunday, the Third Sunday in Lent, John 2:13-22, is, in a sense, a sequel to last Sunday’s Mark 8:31-38 passion-resurrection prediction. This John 2:13-22 passion-resurrection prediction of the Johannine Jesus is couched in typical Johannine terms that are much more obscure and symbolic than are those within the Synoptic traditions. Not only is the cleansing of the temple placed near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry rather than at the end where it is in the Synoptics, but also the Johannine writers placed this passion-resurrection prediction near the beginning of their account of Jesus’ public ministry rather than well into the account as was done in Mark, Matthew, and Luke.

Further comparison of the cleansing of the temple accounts indicates that the Johannine tradition made the temple cleansing action of Jesus much more violent than in the Synoptics by having the Johannine Jesus form a whip of thorn bushes and using it to drive from the temple court those who had been selling animals there for use in the temple sacrifices and changing Roman coins into Jewish “tokens” that would be acceptable as temple offerings. Such comparison of texts also reveals that the Johannine tradition used its temple cleansing account as the basis for its passion-resurrection prediction in this John 2:13-22 text. (Note how the play on words in John 2:13-22 is dependent upon the cleansing of the temple account in John 2:13-17.) As with so many other texts, we are impressed by the creativity of the inspired writers of these traditions. We can say that this John 2:13-22 text is basically a product of the inspired Johannine community.

Among the indications that this John 23-22 text is a product of the inspired Johannine community are the following. First, there are the words of the Johannine Jesus in 2:19, “Destroy this temple, and (or If you destroy this temple,) within three days I will raise it up,” and second, there is the use of the words “the Jews” in 2:13, 18, and 20. Let us look more closely at these two factors.

The words of John 2:19 are characteristic of a Divine Sovereign who cannot be limited or removed by death. Even though his temple-body might be destroyed by evil people, he has the power of self-resurrection at whatever time he designates. A human being, on the other hand, cannot accomplish self-resurrection. (Even Egyptian pharaohs who had mammoth pyramids constructed in which their bodies were to be placed could not accomplish self-resurrection.) We see that the words of the Johannine Jesus, here and elsewhere within the Fourth Gospel, are expressions of what the people of the Johannine community believed about Jesus as they perceived him. Their perception bordered on what was later to be called Docetism (that Jesus only seemed to have been human), although they guarded against that somewhat with their “and the Word became flesh in the Johannine Prologue.

The distance between the Jesus of history and this account as we have it here is also portrayed in the use in this text of the expression “the Jews.” By the time and in the place of the full development of this text, the members of the Johannine community were far removed theologically from Jews who remained Jews. They had in effect “forgotten,” or perhaps we should say “chosen to forget” that the Jesus of history had lived and died as a Jew. Because of the way in which they used the expression “the Jews” in this and in many other Johannine texts, most Christians have also “forgotten” or “chosen to forget,” or at least have not realized that Jesus himself was a Jew. As a result, destructive and hateful anti-Semitism became accepted and inherent within the Christian Church and in many Christian people.

Before we take up the practical question of what we shall proclaim next Sunday using this text as our primary biblical basis, let us consider for a moment a few thoughts about the resurrection predictions in John 2:13-22 to supplement our reflections over the passion-resurrection predictions in Mark 8:31-38 last week. We can see and understand how resurrection predictions would be attributed to Jesus after followers of Jesus began to believe that Jesus who had been crucified by the Romans was alive again, raised from the dead by God or even self-resurrected, was in the Spirit of God truly present with them, and uniquely one with God the Father. Resurrection predictions such as these are a natural development ex eventu. They are classic examples of vaticinia ex eventu (predictions made after the event has occurred). Once it was perceived that Jesus was the unique Son of God, soon to be considered to be “God the Son,” It is in no way surprising that followers of Jesus would have believed and taught that Jesus was and is omniscient. Therefore, it was reasoned or at least assumed that Jesus must have known prior to his death precisely when and how he would be killed and when and how he would rise from the dead. Resurrection vaticinia ex eventu were therefore an entirely normal development. After it was proclaimed and taught, however, that Jesus had known and had revealed to his disciples that within three days after his death he would be raised from the dead, it became necessary to emphasize that his followers could not understand and did not remember Jesus’ resurrection predictions until after Jesus’ death and resurrection had occurred. For if his male disciples had believed and remembered Jesus’ resurrection predictions, presumably they would have waited confidently for three days to pass, gathering early in the morning on the third day at the tomb of Jesus to welcome him back from the dead, never doubting that they would soon see him alive again, instead of doubting the word of the women who had experienced and then announced his resurrection to male followers of Jesus.

It is important for us to try to discern Jesus’ own perception of the suffering that he would soon endure in Gethsemane, during the horrible torture by the Roman soldiers of the crucifixion squad during the night, and on the cross. The earlier Gospels, Mark and Matthew, retained an emphasis on Jesus’ agony and suffering by utilizing the first verse of Psalm 22, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” as the only words of Jesus on the cross. On the other hand, the later Gospels, Luke and especially John, portray Jesus as essentially in control of the situation even while he was dying on the cross and as never in despair.

Now let us face the practical question of what we should proclaim based on this text this coming Sunday. We can portray how clever Jesus was, how adamant “the Jews” were, and how slow the disciples were to recognize and to process what Jesus had said. We can marvel at the daring and strength of Jesus as he drove men and animals from the temple court. Or, as a result of a more intense study of this text within the broader context of the Fourth Gospel and of the Synoptics, we can proclaim that this text reveals some of the things that the people of the Johannine community believed about Jesus and wrote about some of the Jews who were contemporary with the Johannine community during the time of the development of the Fourth Gospel. We can demonstrate how the people of the Fourth Gospel community formulated this passion-resurrection prediction as an additional inducement to faith in the Johannine Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It will be helpful to get back as much as possible into the situation of the people who developed and first used this text. It will be helpful to express our faith as they expressed their faith, but without condemning the Jews. Certainly, we want our proclamation this coming Sunday to be both faith-inducing and edifying.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

It is probable that this text was chosen to be used with John 2:13-22 because, like John 2:13-22, it is an indication that many Jews during the decades after the death of Jesus were asking those who were followers of Jesus for some indication that the human condition and especially their human condition was improved as a result of the death of Jesus and the efforts of Jesus’ followers. From the standpoint of the Jews, there was an expectation that when the Messiah would come, a new age of peace, security, joy, and happiness for all people would occur. They were asking for indications of this sort, not for miracles as such, but for radically changed political, social, and spiritual conditions. If the political, social, and spiritual conditions not only of the Jews but of all people had improved dramatically as a result of Jesus’ life and death, most Jews probably would have accepted Jesus as having been the Messiah.

Most Jews, however, saw little evidence that the human condition had improved dramatically as a result of the life and death of Jesus. Instead, as a result of the attempt by nationalistically minded Jews to attain their autonomy in Galilee and in Judea that had been crushed by the Romans with terrible suffering by the Jews, the condition of Jews had decreased horribly. Pressure from followers of Jesus who were placing the blame for Jesus’ suffering and death on the Jews and were at the same time trying to persuade Jews to become followers of Jesus certainly did not improve the human condition of the Jews. By our becoming aware of this, we as Christians can have a better understanding of why antagonism against the Jews by Christians, why anti-Jewish polemic in the Newer Testament documents and in the Church, and why anti-Semitism by Christians throughout most of the history of the Church have always been so counterproductive for Christians, especially when some of them have continued to try to “convert” Jews to Christianity. It would be helpful if we could explain some of this in our message this coming Sunday.

Paul wrote that the Jews ask for signs and that the Greeks seek wisdom, as apparently many of them did during the first century of the common era. Was not their search valid? Should not our proclamation also be intellectually respectable? Paul’s point here, however, apparently was that his message centered on the crucifixion and on the resurrection of Jesus. So should our message as well. Are we not called in our situation to proclaim that message in ways that are appropriate and helpful where we are, just as Paul was called to do in his situation?

Psalm 19

The reason this text was selected for the Third Sunday in Lent in Series B is probably the connection between Psalm 19:7b, “The testimony of the Lord is sure. It makes even the simple person wise,” and Paul’s insistence in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 that the message of Christ crucified brings the power and the wisdom of God to everyone who will accept this message. Psalm 19:7-14, of course, provides for us an important insight into how Jews traditionally have regarded the Torah. These verses are similar in this respect to the greatly expanded Psalm 119:1-176.

Exodus 20:1-17

Since the Torah has been acclaimed in Psalm 19:7-14, the “heart” of the Torah in the Decalogue in this Exodus 20:1-17 Priestly account is then added as the Older Testament reading. In this connection, see the article, “Commandments in Context: The Function of Torah in Early Israel,” by Paul D. Hanson in the Lutheran Theological Seminary Bulletin, Gettysburg, PA (Summer, 1981), 14-24. Copies are available for a nominal charge for postage and handling from the Business Office, The Bulletin, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania 17325.

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen