The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews
4 March 2018
3 Lent, B
St. Joseph-St. John, Lakewood
May the words of my mouth
and the meditations of all our hearts
be acceptable in your sight O Lord
our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
As we’ve gone through this Lent,
today being the Third Sunday,
I’ve emphasized walking with
and living like Jesus.
Learning to be like him
as those who are preparing for baptism
learn the same.
Learning to live like him
even if it means
following him to the grave.
With today’s gospel text,
I need to say something that will be repeated
in most sermons between now and Easter:
I’m saying it today and will repeat it
because for the next few weeks
we’re hearing from John instead of Mark.
John was written
between 40 and 50 years
after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
By that point oral tradition
about Jesus the wandering rabbi had faded some,
and writing had started to bear the burden
for retelling the stories of Jesus.
While Mark’s Greek and narrative
are hack and slash,
to the point,
and with very little flourish,
John is a native.
John is an author.
His turns of phrase are beautiful,
his writing is mystical,
his Jesus is on a mission.
In his writing, with every word,
John is on a mission too.
That’s why context matters.
This is John 2,
we're barely into the book,
and John has started using shorthand:
That makes my eyes bug a little,
especially living in the 21st Century
and knowing how much Christian scripture
has been used for two thousand years
to persecute our Jewish siblings.
John’s writing about
Jesus’ death plot
is a shorthand
not unlike modern newscasters use.
When our news people
talk about Republicans or Democrats in Congress
holding up some piece of legislation,
they are almost never talking about the rank and file members.
Members of the parties --
in DC or in Fife --
don’t usually actively hold up legislation.
The leadership does.
In John’s gospel,
the whole of the Jewish people
aren’t plotting to kill Jesus.
Leadership motivated by fear for safety is.
From now until Good Friday,
when John says “The Jews” are up to no good against Jesus
or challenging his authority or existence
read it as “Jewish Leadership.”
These are the people
who have colluded with the empire
to avoid slaughter.
When someone from their fold
starts challenging the empire,
they have a host of concerns.
I’m not throwing them under the bus either.
They were humans
living in hard, uncertain times.
Our context today, in March 2018,
is the Third Sunday of Lent.
We’re walking with Jesus in his life,
and hearing him tell us where his life leads:
In John 2
Jesus is already saying that he will die.
His original hearers don’t know that.
See how John throws in
— 40 or 50 years later --
that Jesus means his body.
After Jesus is raised from the dead
his disciples remember this challenge
about restoration of a temple
three days after its destruction.
Also in John 2,
Jesus is setting himself up
in opposition to the Jewish leadership.
These money changers are in the temple
exchanging Roman money,
money with Caesar’s face,
money with the face of someone revered as a god.
These money changers are
dealing in exchanging idols --
carved images of a self-proclaimed God --
for cattle, sheep and doves,
for the Passover offering.
is allowing idols inside the temple.
Jesus, so human,
loses his temper and in a righteous anger
makes an immediate change.
Again, context matters.
is the only one that records Jesus
making a whip from cords.
John’s gospel is also the only one
where cattle and sheep are present
for what’s known as Jesus’ cleansing the temple.
Living like Jesus,
walking with Jesus
sometimes means letting our righteous anger
stir up the motivation to bring immediate change.
The leadership of the students in Parkland, FL
and students around the country following their lead
comes to mind.
Living like Jesus, walking with Jesus,
doesn’t, however, mean getting violent
and beating people into submission with words or deeds.
When faced with beasts of the field in the temple
Jesus drove them out with a whip.
When faced with soldiers of the empire bearing swords
Jesus kissed his betrayer
then healed a man whose ear had been cut off.
Living like Jesus, walking with Jesus,
should motivate us to make change.
Today’s text from John tells us
that that makes people unhappy.
We probably already know that, though.
Jesus, fully human, fully divine,
gives us the example of getting fired up,
getting in our feelings, as the youths say today,
and jumping to action.
Where are you going to jump to action
this week, the Lent, this coming Eastertide
as you live and walk with Jesus?