Twice this gospel mentions the Passover—that event in Jewish history that marks Israel’s passage from slavery to freedom. This is the founding, saving event that the Jewish people celebrate each year. Those who could came to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. Jesus is there. On the feast. He goes to the temple. And becomes enraged. This is not a picture of Jesus we usually see. Something awfully important had to have been at stake.
The temple in Jerusalem was a sign to the Jews of God’s Presence and saving works. This sign could be corrupted, however, by human beings who turn away from the temple’s true purpose. Enraged, Jesus takes “a whip” and drives out of the temple area those who corrupt the sign. Then Jesus announces both a new temple (his own body) that could not be corrupted and a new sign (“raised from the dead”) that would draw those who come to believe in him to a whole new reality. Even though the new temple of Jesus’ body would be destroyed by death, in the end it was not. This temple would be an eternal sign of God’s Presence and saving works and those who wish to share in Jesus’ Life cannot lose sight of this sign.
God’s Presence and saving works are not found in bricks and mortar,but in the risen Body of Christ. Now we are the new temple: the living sign of the new things God is doing for us. This living sign is no longer a place (a bricks and mortar temple), but a relationship of fidelity to a new temple (the risen Jesus).
The simple call of the gospel is to see the living signs of God’s Presence in our midst. Unlike the signs the Jews asked to see in the gospel—signs which would justify Jesus’ extraordinary action in the temple—we are to ask and look for different signs, ones which draw us into the deepest reality of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus showed us the signs so clearly: he was crucified and then raised up. Just as surely as God raised up Jesus from the dead, so will we be raised up. The signs are there for us to see and believe. Oh, the jealousy and fidelity of the Divine! Yes, God can be trusted with our very lives.
Most of us get lost in the demands of our everyday living. We get up in the morning, spend our day working, prepare and clean up after meals, shop and clean, drive the kids to soccer practice, worry about them, and do countless other things before we fall into bed at the end of the day—usually totally exhausted. In the midst of all this it is pretty difficult to be single-minded about anything except the tasks at hand. This gospel strikingly challenges us to keep doing all these everyday tasks—but for the right reason: to continue to be living signs of Jesus’ risen Presence within and among us.
Ultimately, we are to offer up the temple of our own bodies by dying to self and only in this way can we share in the new Life God offers us. This is our daily dying: not necessarily doing something different, but doing what is demanded of us out of love for God and the good of others. This is our daily rising: that we have kept our sight on God, have conformed ourselves more perfectly to Christ, and have believed the signs of God’s Presence to us.