"Stand Up:" The Third Sunday in Lent, Year B

"Stand Up:" The Third Sunday in Lent, Year B

Mar 04, 2018

Passage:John 2:13-22

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

Series: Lent

Category: Discipleship, Penitence

Keywords: justice, lent, mercy, self-examination, stand up


As we continue our self-examination of Lent, the Gospel of John presents us with a challenging story of Jesus' anger and prophetic response to the merchants and money changers in the temple. This passage reminds us that, as part of our self-examination, we need to discern who we are called to stand up for. God gives us the love, the strength, the community, and the example of Jesus to meet that call...the call to spread the Good News that God's love brings mercy and justice for all people.


May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen.

​As we prayed on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a time of self-examination, repentance, fasting, self-denial, and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.  As we continue our Lenten practice of searching the contents of our hearts and souls, the Gospel of John challenges us to dig move further...and to act more courageously.

Today’s passage brings us face to face with a Jesus that’s sometimes hard to imagine.  This is a Jesus who’s angry.  He’s fed up!

As Jesus makes his way toward the temple in Jerusalem, it’s the festival of the Passover.  There are people everywhere.  It’s crowded and noisy as the people enter the city.  There’s electricity in the air.  There’s the anticipation of the Passover.  And there’s also tension because the Roman soldiers are on guard for any sign of disturbance from these Jewish pilgrims.[1] 

Although it sounds highly sacrilegious to our 21st century minds for there to be money changers and merchants set up in the temple, it was actually considered a necessary and useful arrangement.  People are traveling from far away and need the kinds of animals to sacrifice for the Passover.  The merchants and money changers are providing services for the faithful who are traveling at great risk and cost to come to the temple at Passover. [2]

In the midst of all of this tension and commotion, Jesus enters the temple.  As he looks around, he becomes enraged.  He makes a whip out of several cords and begins driving out the merchants and the animals.  He pours out the coins from the money changes and turns over their tables.  He tells the dove sellers to take their things out and to “stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

His disciples witness this scene and recall scripture.  In the Gospel of John, they recognize Jesus as their Lord, even early on.  But the temple leaders try to debate Jesus.  Of course, they don’t fully understand his responses about the temple being destroyed and raised in three days.  And the final sentence in this passage suggests that the disciples did not fully realize that Jesus was talking about himself and his own body until after the Resurrection.  

But what’s the point here?  Why was Jesus so angry?  And how does this passage speak to us today?

The Gospel of John doesn’t really make it clear as to why Jesus was so upset.  The other gospels suggest that the merchants were taking advantage of the pilgrims, but John does not include these comments.  The Gospel of John suggests that Jesus is outraged that the people seem to elevate the rituals of Passover over the worship and love of God. 

Perhaps this is the true reason for Jesus’ anger.  Throughout all the gospels, Jesus is bringing people the Good News of God’s love for all people.  But people seem to keep missing the point.

And here’s where we come into this passage.  We find ourselves in multiple roles in this scene.  We’re sometimes the money changers and merchants.  We provide important, and even noble services, but forget that the focus is on God and God’s love.

We’re sometimes the temple leaders.  We think we’re doing the right thing and protecting one another when we’re actually leading them away from God’s mission.

Sometimes we’re the disciples who witness all these things.  We’re the ones who help make sense of what’s happening.

But, ultimately, we are called to follow in the way of Jesus.  And frankly, this way of following Jesus makes me pretty uncomfortable.  It entails a delicate balance between prophecy and passion.  It would be easy to believe that following Jesus’ example here gives us permission to go off “half-cocked” any time we see what we believe to be wrong.  We have to be careful not to get too caught up in our own egos and righteous indignation.

         But today, we clearly see Jesus standing up for what he knows is the will of God.  And this is where our Lenten self-examination comes into play.  As we examine our own thoughts, feelings, and actions, Jesus calls us to recognize our own complicity in closing our eyes to those who need us to stand up for them.  At the same time, our self-examination allows us to embrace the power that we have to partner with God in standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

         So, what are we closing our eyes to?  As individuals?  As a church?  Are our hearts and minds open to see those who need us?  Do we let the tasks and rituals and habits that we are most comfortable with skew our vision?

         At the same time, we must recognize that God has given each and every one of us amazing gifts.  We have the gift of God’s abundant love.  We have a community within this parish and the greater Body of Christ that walks with us.  We have the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ through which love conquers evil and death. We have the wonderful privilege of coming to this table in communion with the saints present, those have gone before, and those who will follow.

         These are the gifts that allow us to look deeply and honestly into our hearts.  These are the gifts that give us the strength to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  These are the gifts that give us the courage to stand up for those whose voices need to be heard. 

         This Lenten season, may we use the courage and these gifts to follow Christ boldly.  And, like Jesus, stand up for the Good News that God’s love brings mercy and justice for all people.



[1] Salmon, Mary.  “Commentary of John 2:13-22,” Working Preacher, March 11, 2012.

[2] Ibid.