Love God, love others. Seems so simple, doesn’t it? That’s what these Ten Commandments from our Hebrew Bible are all about. As we heard them read this morning, the first four teach us about Loving God, and being loved by God. They tell us that God is God, and nothing else is, certainly not you or me. They tell us that this life is best lived with our full attention focused on God’s relationship with us. Because, as we well know, so much in this world would have us loosen our focus, divert our attention, from God to the things and stuff that we worship instead of God.
We’ve been talking about this during Lent already. We’ve considered this journey with Jesus and that it is about the relationship Jesus has with you, and with all of us. We’ve considered our intention for Lent, an intention that holds space for transformation, forgiveness, and repentance, an intention that invites our full attention on Jesus. What is it you must lay down, or let go of, so that you may take this journey with Jesus? Do you want to fast from something? Do you want to unattach yourself from something that holds your attention too strongly? That may be like an idol in your life?
The other six teach us about loving others. Honor your relatives, love and respect those around you. Don’t be overly attached to what you have, or what belongs to your neighbor. Take your vow taking and promise making seriously. And yet, it is so very hard for us.
John, in this fourth gospel shows us that Jesus is the embodiment of “grace upon grace”. Jesus is the embodiment of abundance. Jesus is the embodiment of these commandments. There is therefore no further need for sacrifice; Jesus’ incarnated, embodied grace suffices fully, wholly, entirely, and completely. Keep in mind; the Temple had become a marketplace out of necessity. In order to buy the animals for sacrifice, folks needed to change their Roman coins for Jewish ones and then purchase the proscribed animals. But with Jesus on the scene – the one who embodies abundance having just taken the waters of purification (also no longer needed) and turned them instead into the wine of celebration – there is no need for changing money, for purchasing animals, for making sacrifice…at all or ever again.
In John’s gospel, we see that Jesus’ body, incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, is enough. This is what Jesus’ words mean when he says, destroy the temple and in three days I will raise it up. Imagine what that meant to people whose experience of God was in the temple, in a very particular place. Whether or not we are aware of it, we are very comfortable talking about Jesus being in our hearts, Jesus being everywhere, encountering Jesus in nature, or one another. But the people who surrounded Jesus at the time this story takes place, had no idea like that. God was located in a very specific place, the temple. This was game changing. This was world ending and new world beginning. This is grace, abundance, and love.
You and I can be assured, because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, that this amazing grace is available to us, anytime, anywhere. We do not have to work for it, and we do not have to be perfect, because we are perfectly loved. This little passage holds so much meaning for our lives today. You see, when you are broken, you will be healed. When you are at the end of your patience, you will receive peace. In any time and any place you find yourself, God’s grace, and love, and hope, will encourage, comfort, and restore.
Jesus is God’s presence with us, what does that look and feel like? If we take this seriously, we must be changed, transformed. If Jesus is God’s presence with us, Jesus is also God’s presence with all people, there are no better than or worse than people. There are no people who have God and people who do not have God. Jesus resides in and through and among all of us, this is incarnation, God with us. So I think what this story about Jesus in the temple shows us is that Jesus cannot be commodified or consumerized. Jesus cannot be bought and sold for personal gain or personal agendas. Using the label Christian is not like going to the store, buying a piece of jewelry with a cross on it and calling yourself Christian.
Following Jesus, this Jesus who would have nothing to do with transactions in the temple, is about being transformed by abundant grace, it is about coming to this table and being made whole in God’s image. It is about water and wine that heal the holes in our hearts that are created by moment upon moment of being ripped and torn apart by the harsh words and realities of the world in which we live.
Following Jesus, who turned the tables in the temple, is about being fed with the bread that fills our bellies with food that nurtures, sustains, and sends us out into the world to do the work of justice that God gives us to do.
Following Jesus, who manages the moneychangers, is about using our money and our resources for the good of creation and for the good of our community. The stewardship of our resources is a moral statement of how we understand God’s incarnation, and how we are invested in God’s kingdom.
Following Jesus, who is God in our midst, Jesus who is grace upon grace, is about a changing heart; it is the most costly exchange of all. You see, in following Jesus, we are consumed by love, and by grace, and we let go of the stuff that keeps our hearts hardened, that holds us hostage.
And we are sent out to do the work that God will have us do. The work that bears God’s grace and abundance into all the places we find ourselves. This is the work of justice. Justice that creates a world in which our children and teachers are safe. Justice that creates a world in which all people are fed. Justice that protects our water, our earth.
Jesus is not interested in transaction, Jesus is interested in transformation. Jesus is not interested in buying and selling religion or morality, Jesus is interested in loving God, loving others, and showing it. Amen.