March 21, 2018, 10:46 pm
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Jesus’ consuming zeal

SINCE the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there.

He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.


The picture of Jesus in today’s Gospel is a far cry from the “Sweet Jesus,” we find printed in stampitas, and holy pictures. “Cleansing” the Temple of sellers of sacrificial animals and of moneychangers, the image is closer to the “Angry Christ” – the expressionist artist Alfonso Ossorio’s mural “Angry Christ” found in St. Joseph the Worker Chapel in Victorias, Negros Occidental. This chapel is popularly known as “Angry Christ Church.”

The action of Jesus in the Temple is not simply driving away those who make noise and disturbance in the house of God. Otherwise, it would have pleased even the Temple Authorities, just as many priest would be if barangay tanods would clear the church precincts of vendors during Sunday Masses. But to drive out the animals required for sacrifice and to shut down the exchange of foreign coinage are in effect to shut down the function of the Temple as a place of worship. For this reason, the “Jews” (read: “Temple authorities”) are indignant and they demand by what authority Jesus does this offense. They ask, “What sign can you show us for doing this?”

Jesus’ answer is enigmatic: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The evangelist says that Jesus is speaking of his own body, which will be “destroyed” when he is put to death, but then be “raise up” when he rises from the dead. Jesus is pointing to the time when his glorified body will replace the material TempIe of Jerusalem. The reconciling function of the Temple sacrifices will be replaced, once and for all, by the saving effects of his death on the cross. And as the glorified Lord, he will be the “place” of encounter between God and his people, through the action of the Spirit who raised him from the dead. Thus, fulfilled are his words to the Samaritan woman by Jacob’s well-a time is coming when those who truly worship the Father will do so, not in material temples or shrines, whether in Jerusalem or elsewhere, but “in Spirit and in truth: (Jn 4:23-24).

Zeal for God’s house drives Jesus’ action. He is driven by an intense desire for “true worship” that will soon be realized. And he knows that this will be accomplished when the “hour” arrives-the time of his return to the Father through his passion, death, and resurrection. At this time, the Spirit will be given to the believers.

Because of his zeal for the honor of God and for his mission, Jesus becomes a person of contradiction. This zeal determines and seals his fate-but it also tells us what kind of person he is. Jesus is not being “violent” to people. He drives away the merchants, but does not strike them. Jesus is “violent” only to himself. His relatives take him as crazy bccause he has no more time for himself (Mk 3:21). He causes his mother pain and anxiety because he must be about his heavenly Father’s business (Lk 2:49).He takes no food because his food is to do the will of the heavenly father (Jn 4:34). Indeed, Jesus is being “foolish” for God. But it is this “foolishness that makes possible our salvation.


– Fr. Gil A. Alinsangan, SSP
– March 4, 2018
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