Written By Wilson Akinwale
Key Text: John 2:19
Has God left the building? Has God left His Church alone during this period of the Pandemic? Has God left His people because we cannot gather in-person to praise and worship Him the way we’d love to do? No, I don’t think so! God is always at work; He is always present. Perhaps we might be asking ourselves these questions to get that sense of connection with what God is up to in our lives these days. In fact we might be looking for signs as well asking where God is leading us. To some a sign is something they look out for when they ask or seek answers to questions. As a young boy who grew up in the rectory, my brother and I saw a gift of artwork that was presented to our Dad from the National Association for the Blind in Nigeria. It was a beautifully crafted piece of hand-made artwork with some soft wood cut into different measurements, and glued together to match in order to make an inscription about the word JESUS. This artwork was hard to read! It was a very daunting task for me and my brother to understand what was inscribed on this artwork. So in our curiosity, we tasked each other to unravel the meaning. At first, we were looking for signs pointing us to where we could get answers to what was inscribed on this artwork. Second, we both asked our Dad what this was all about, but he wouldn’t want to disclose anything except for him to encourage us to pay a “close attention to every detail” on this wooden artwork. So, for several days we were relentless to figure out the meaning on this artwork. But one thing stood clear in our search: we never moved closer to this artwork to get a glimpse of what it was all about. And worst still at some point we both gave up! However, one mid-morning, my brother came to me and said: ‘Wilson, I can now “see” the meaning of the inscription on the artwork.’ I was expecting him to interpret the word from a Greek, or a Latin word or any other language that we were never familiar with. My brother turned to the back of this artwork (which we never examined during our search) and read tiny words written there: “JESUS! It’s not everyone that takes time to seek Him, but if you look long enough you will ‘see’ Him.” After days of our searching and looking for signs, my Dad was so glad we could figure out the message. For me as young boy it was a lifetime lesson learned through a personal experience of searching, seeking, and asking to get right answers.
So what does this Gospel reading tell us this morning?
The sign of the temple is the location of Christ’s Body. In our Gospel reading this morning, the people had an encounter with Jesus. Jesus Himself having driven out the people buying and selling in the temple, He declares “Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise” (verse 16). In other words, make this place a house of prayer to a living God. And they were also asking Him about what He is saying about this place, the physical temple. To them, the temple is a symbol of their devotion and worship. The Jews have long history with the temple. The temple is so important to them that they are thinking what Jesus said about it might invalidate all what they know about their worship and existence. Like many other pilgrims, Jesus Himself has come to Jerusalem because of Passover and he comes to the temple. According to John, Jesus presents Himself to the people beyond the signs people are seeking on this occasion. He presents Himself as the temple, the sanctuary of God’s presence, not the centre of the temple which once held the ark of the covenant. John re-echoes Jesus is the location of God’s glory rather than the temple building in which he stands, and where they stand. Jesus’ connection to the temple in John 2 is a thorough-going Christological position that begins in Chapter 1. According to John, Jesus is the embodiment of God’s Word, whose dwelling with humanity enables them to see God’s glory and who continues to show humanity the way to the Father. Jesus’ words with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:21-24) also reinforces this idea. When Jesus also tells Philip that seeing Him, the disciples have seen the Father, we shouldn’t be surprised (John 14:9; cf. 1: 18). For John, when people focus too much on a physical location, they miss out on God’s glory standing right in front of them. Therefore, whether we worship in the church or we are restricted to the corner of our room due to the Pandemic, God is not located in one place. We cannot seek the sign in one place. God is located everywhere we find ourselves, be it in our own wilderness experience He is there with us during our moments of reality or anywhere we could think of.
The Temple: Irony of the Body of Christ.
When the religious leaders in Jerusalem worry about the fate of the temple (John 2:20; cf. John 11:45-50), the Gospel this morning again re-focuses our attention to when Jesus speaks of the temple as His body (John 2:21). Jesus has not come to destroy the temple but to let people see that He is the temple where people can dwell and fellowship in their moments with Him. His cleansing of the temple demonstrates to us the reason He has to make His place holy to dwell. The destruction of the temple and in three days raising it up (John 2:19) indicates Jesus is giving up of Himself on the cross through His suffering. This time of Lent reminds us to reclaim our identity from how he has presented Himself to us and
through His victory at resurrection. From this, we have a clear testimony of what we see in Him as the best gift ever to humanity for our salvation. In our second reading this morning, Paul said, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). God wants us to look long enough, to move closer to Him beyond the signs. This season of Lent is that perfect moment we can do that!
Today is the third Sunday in Lent. As we continue to reflect on this season Alicia Myers said: “we walk the path to Jerusalem during Lent, we join crowds of pilgrims from millennia before preparing for festivals remembering God’s salvation. But we, too, should be careful lest we miss God’s earth-shattering Word in our midst. Rather than coming to a physical temple, or church building, we need instead to come to Jesus (John 12:9, 20). Worshipping in Spirit and truth wherever we may be, we see God’s glory by remembering God’s love made manifest in Jesus—even when he disrupts our usual plans.” As we continue on the path to Easter, this is another week for us to look beyond the signs and try to get a glimpse of what this season could resonate for us in our spiritual journey with Jesus.
Thanks be to God!