Cleansing the Temple

Is faith in God reasonable? What reasons do people have for faith? How do acts of scandal detract from faith?

Each time and each culture has its reasons to believe. In the past, philosophers asserted God’s existence and reasonable nature of faith. Today, psychologists propose faith as a means to mental health and personal fulfillment. We Christians want faith to fit into life, answers our questions, and give us comfort, assurance, strength . . .But what happens when faith causes scandal? How do people react when people of faith commit unreasonable acts? On a typical day during business hours, Jesus overturned a marketplace in a very unreasonable manner. And through his rage, he revealed himself as the Messiah.

This Sunday we turn to an incident in John’s gospel that revealed Jesus as the Messiah: the cleansing of the Temple. This violent act led to a prediction of his Passion and Resurrection. And a statement that Jesus did not trust his contemporaries.

What a mess Jesus made! He spilled coins, overturned tables and even destroyed the temple as God’s dwelling place. He declared that the place of God’s presence among the people was no longer a building but the temple of his body.

“Temple” to “the house of my Father” to “body.” These were all titles for the dwelling place of God on earth. These were titles for Christ’s body. These were all titles for the Christian community. The common thread throughout this changing set of terms was the Christian community in relation to its Master. Through the Risen Christ, God dwelt in the community.

Through Christ, God is making a new creation in us. Our relationship with God is measured by how well we pattern our lives after Jesus in dying to ourselves for the good of others. New, risen life is ours when we destroy structures of prejudice, self-righteousness,, selfishness, materialism, arrogance, social and economic status. Like Christ we become living signs of God’s love and fidelity.

Faith will always cause scandal. Do we waver in the face of scandal? Or, do we redouble our efforts in faith? In the end, a faith that survives scandal is the toughest faith of all.