March 7, 2021
THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT
God’s Love Is Not for Sale
The trouble isn’t that there are people buying and selling animals and exchanging money in the temple. Those things have always happened in the temple. No one is being corrupt; no one is getting rich. These are facets of temple life that exist to uphold God’s law.
The trouble is that something has gone haywire: we have allowed our experience of the marketplace to shape the way we see God; if I give God this, God will give me that. Instead of God informing our understanding of the marketplace, it has come to be the other way around. Jesus has come to turn this haywire understanding on its head.
In the face of trouble, promising to give God something as a down payment will not make God any more likely to come to your aid. God has already come and made a home with you in your trouble.
In the face of death, bargaining with God will not attract God’s favor for you, because God is already there. Your death is forever wedded to Christ’s death, and likewise your resurrection to his resurrection.
In the face of helplessness, negotiating with God for help is useless because God was your helper long before you even asked.
Do you see? God’s love is not to be bought or sold, only given freely and lavishly, even to those who could never pay if they wanted to.
As a result, the body of Christ today, the church, sets out to live in ways that are unfathomable to the modern-day market. We spend our communal life on hungry people who will never be able to invite us to their own tables, and on children who cannot contribute to our offering plate, on dying people who after receiving our most prized treasures are not there to enjoy them. Our life is senseless lived by the rules of the marketplace. Thanks be to God that Christ comes to overturn it.
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The Readings in the Bible
That the fourth evangelist, writing in the late first or early second century, understands his religion as distinct from Judaism is evident in the narrative of the cleansing of the temple. The evangelist has relocated the narrative from the last week of Jesus’ life, thus in the synoptics a possible explanation for his arrest, to its very beginning after his miracle at Cana, thus identifying the entire mission of Jesus as a new proclamation. In verse 21, John uses the episode to proclaim Christology: Christ himself is the temple, the locus of divine power, the place where God and humankind meet.
The earlier of the two similar but not identical biblical accounts of the ten commandments (see also Deuteronomy 5:6-11), Exodus 20 connects the sabbath observance to God’s rest after creation, rather than to the memory of slavery. Commandments four through ten resemble the moral codes of other ancient Near Eastern societies, but in the biblical version, offense against community and property is understood as against God. Historians remind us that a list of rules indicates not so much the way people lived, as the way the authorities wished they live.
When Greek philosophers spoke about sophia, wisdom, they meant a learned knowledge of the world’s logical system of cause and effect. Writing in about 54 ce to the Christians in Corinth, Paul contrasted both this philosophical idea and the Jewish hope for divine signs with the radically different Christian faith in the paradoxical cross of Christ. This passage suggests that the Corinthian congregation included persons of high education.