January 21, 2018 – “Presence”

Today’s text is from John 2:13-25.

Bodies matter. Jesus becoming human matters. God – in all God’s divine essence – decided to become human. This is the radical and earthshattering event of the incarnation.   

About one month ago we witnessed as God was born as a baby. This is critical to our understanding of who God is – of who Jesus is. For the writer of the Gospel of John the entire narrative of the book would depend on it: Jesus is God. And Jesus is human. All of the Gospel of John points toward this strange fact. And it’s not God inhabiting a human body and simply pretending to be human, but it is God in human flesh as 100% God and 100% human.  

I know the math doesn’t add up. It’s not supposed to. Because this is the radical in breaking of God into creation as one of us. As a human being. As a friend, neighbor, family member, stranger, foreigner, outsider, insider, prophet, priest, king. 

Because as we will see in this Gospel of John, Jesus is all these things and more. But, most importantly, Jesus is both God and human. Today’s telling of the clearing of the temple highlights this point for us. 

In Matthew, Mark, and Luke – in the other three Gospels – this story occurs on Palm Sunday as Jesus enters Jerusalem just days before his crucifixion. In those other gospels this telling of Jesus upending tables and disrupting the money changers at the temple is yet another reason those in power want Jesus dead – in those narratives perhaps the final impetus to nailing Jesus to the cross. 

But that’s not the case in John. We’ve only just started with hearing about Jesus’ ministry – so far only one sign has been performed, turning water into wine last week, certainly nothing that would warrant any talk about crucifixion and death. 

So, why is Jesus suddenly turning over tables, throwing money across the floor, and making a whip out of cords? What’s happening at the temple in our reading has been going on for centuries: People are required to make a sacrifice at the temple, but few have the means to actually bring their sacrificial animal with, so instead they purchase their sacrifice at the temple itself. 

So, a marketplace has been set up: Farmers and suppliers bring in the animals and travelers with money buy them for their sacrifice. It seems like basic supply and demand. But that’s human economics – it’s not God’s economics.  

In the Gospel of John, God being present as a human, literally as one of us, as you, is critical, the lynchpin, really. Jesus walks into the temple and sees a world of people coming to worship where they think God is located: Within the walls of the temple. Jesus walks into the temple and sees a whole economy created in order to service this theological understanding of who God is and where God is. 

The irony and sadness of people spending everything in order to travel to Jerusalem only to spend even more in order to do what they thought was necessary in order to be next to the presence of God when on this day in the Gospel of John the very presence of God walked into the temple. 

Not as a Spirit. Not as a dove. Not as an angel. But as a human. As a person with a body and arms and legs and hair and clothes and thoughts and facial expressions and emotions and the capability of becoming upset at what they were seeing to the point where they literally upend the system of separation setup before them. 

A body that walked into the temple and said, “No more.” No more with God only being found in one physical location – because in Jesus Christ, God has entered our human timeline. God has changed the rules of the game. God in Jesus Christ – both human and divine – says that our human bodies are worth something. More than something, in fact, they’re worth everything. 

Because they are were the living God is found. Your body. Your neighbor’s body. Bodies that are rich, poor, young, old; bodies that are American, yes even bodies that are Haitian, African, and Mexican – bodies that run the spectrum of gender, bodies that are healthy and bodies that are broken; bodies that have been abused and tortured, bodies that feel worthless and disgusting, bodies that give birth to new life – bodies that in and through Jesus Christ have been raised to new life. 

This is the promise that has been given to you, your friends, your family, and the world. The promise of new and eternal life through Jesus Christ – our Lord and Savior who is both God and human – our Lord and Savior who has upended the tables of separation and brought the very presence of God to all people – who’s brought the very presence of God to you.