Third Sunday of Lent, 4th March

John 2:13–25
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Some back ground of today’s gospel reading. If we read only the synoptic gospels, which comprise the gospels according to St. Matthew, St. Mark and St. Luke, we could likely draw the conclusion that Jesus spent his public ministry mainly in Galilee and its neighbourhood. He went to Jerusalem in the very late stage of public ministry. However, the gospel according to St. John supplements us the information about Jesus’ many visits to Jerusalem and its vicinity.

St. John wanted to show that although leaders of the people in Jerusalem had many opportunities to hear Jesus’ preaching and to see his miracles, such as healing of the man crippled for 38 years laying in the pool in Sheep Gate (John 5:1-9), the man born blind (John 9:1-33) and the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44), the Pharisees did not believe him. And the Jews could not be very certain that Jesus was the Messiah, so they asked for a “sign”. Jesus gave them a sign but they could not understand it. Instead of pondering the “sign” given by Jesus, they became suspicious about Jesus. Later, they decided to get rid of him.

Does it sound familiar to us? How often we also ask God for a sign. But we do not always pay attention to the “sign” given by God. Why? It is very simple, because we focus on the “sign” that we expect. This mentality and attitude are basically ego-centric and lead us away from God. Once our focus is not on God, we cannot be free to see and hear God.

We don’t pay attention to God because we are busily occupied ourselves with various things, like those who were selling oxen, sheep and pigeons or the money-changers in the temple. Of course, the oxen, sheep, pigeons and money-change were necessary for sacrifices, which pilgrims offered in the temple in Jerusalem. But the problem was people being totally occupied with doing such business and forgot what the temple was really for. Jesus cleansed the temple and to restore its original purpose.

Through his action in the temple, we are reminded also to clean up our mind and to be focus on Jesus. There are many businesses that we have to attend every day. However, on the other hand, we should also set aside a period of time everyday to be with Jesus in our prayer. It is this daily devotion to Jesus that gives us the grace of our commitment to Jesus, not simply the acceptance of some truth. Jesus knows how some people accept him only half-hearted (verses 24 and 25). And he would not see such people as his true followers because they have their own ideas of Messiah. In my prayer today, ask, what is my idea of Messiah? May the Holy Spirit help me to be free and open to God, so that I can see and understand the “sign” given by God. Amen.