Worship preview for 3/4
The readings for the Third Sunday in Lent point to God’s guidance of his followers through his Word. The Old Testament reading presents the Ten Commandments—a guide to serving God, the expression of love for Him and others. In the Epistle reading, we are taught that although unbelievers reject Christ, he is our hope and salvation. In the Gospel lesson, Jesus cleanses the Temple, which was the location of God’s special presence among his people, and tells about his future resurrection from the dead. God’s presence today is found in the sacrificed and resurrected body and blood of Christ—in his Word and Sacraments.
The Gospel: John 2:13-22
In the Gospel reading, Jesus clears the temple of all the money-changers and various salespeople. Because of the Jewish dispersion, the sale of sacrificial animals and money changing was offered as a service to people who had traveled long distances to Jerusalem. However, the presence of competitive commercial enterprise and no doubt the accompanying opportunity for exorbitant profiteering had threatened true devotional worship. Hence Jesus’ sharp and dramatic reaction. His reference to “my Father’s house” implies clearly a distinctive messianic claim. Recognition of this claim led the Jews to ask for a ‘sign’ or miracle to prove his authority. Understandably Jesus’ reply about raising his body in three days went past their comprehension. The disciples, on the other hand, remembered the saying after the resurrection. Their faith that Jesus’ word was on the same level as the Old Testament scripture was thus strengthened.
The temple and its sacrifices were supposed to mirror what Jesus himself was: God’s dwelling place on earth. Jesus has not today lost any of his zeal for his house of the church and gospel. He continues living in his temple of Word and sacrament to this day, and through them living in us as his temples. What would he drive out of you today?
The Old Testament: Exodus 20:1-17
The law of God, given through Moses to Israel at Mount Sinai, was spoken by the voice of God and written by him on two tablets of stone. Although brief, this code of conduct yet encompassed a breadth of social behavior towards family and community which would guarantee an ideal society if followed comprehensively. It’s smart to live according to the Ten Commandments even for the unbeliever.
God’s law starts with love for him and shows itself in service to our neighbor. God didn’t give the law because he needs our obedience, but because our neighbor needs our obedience to it, and because we need our neighbors obedience. God chooses to take it personally if we hurt our neighbor, whom he loves as much as he loves us. That makes God, even in the law, always the one who loves us.
The Epistle lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:22-25
The Jews were not really satisfied with the mirror of the Savior that they had in the temple. They wanted the repetition of the spectacular miracles of the Exodus, even though they knew that those miracles did not create a saving relationship with God. That happened only through the promise of the Savior in the Word and in bloody sacrifices that pictured his work. The Greeks wanted another Socrates or another Aristotle, even though a thousand philosophers who followed them could bring no peace to the conscience or reason for life. The salvation desperately needed by both Jews and Greeks is to be found only in submission to God’s solution to our need, in the temple and wisdom of God Incarnate. We see it and receive it in the weakness of the cross and the power of the Word.