John 2:13-22 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making God’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Later on, the disciples would remember the day. They didn’t understand it at the time, according to John’s gospel. Later, after he was raised from the dead, they made the connection; they believed.
It was all wrong what Jesus did that day. He chased out business as usual. He overturned the way things had been done. When those in charge asked “Why all this protest?,” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.”
The temple that Jesus was talking about, it turns out, was actually his body. But no one would really understand that, no one would figure that out until after the resurrection.
The Gospel of John’s point seems to be that some had gotten stuck in the everyday business of faith. Some had forgotten God’s presence, going through the motions of faith, the motions of living, without really noticing the bodies involved.
Jesus’ body matters in John’s gospel: John’s gospel is the one that tells us that the Word became flesh and made home among us (1.14). Jesus’ body was in the temple that day making a mess of things, overturning tables. Jesus’ body would be hung upon the cross. Jesus’ body would go missing from the tomb. Jesus’ body was the temple. Jesus’ body matters and so do ours. In our bodies, we carry God. We say we are made in God’s image, and that includes our bodies.
As I’ve been wrestling with this lectionary text this week, the importance of bodies in this story is what has really stuck with me. This comes at a time when I’m remembering that taking care of my mental health can require constant changes and adaptations. I’m adjusting my mindset in how I care for my body. I don’t think I’m alone in sometimes forgetting about taking care of my body as I move from one thing to the next in my day and in my week. I know that taking better care of my body means that I’m taking care of my mental health, but I still struggle.
In the last few months, I’ve noticed a change. In fact, tables have been upturned for me. Due to various factors, my anxiety had intensified, and I kept trying to do the same things to take care of my body, and therefore, to manage my anxiety. But I’ve finally changed how I treat this temple that is my body. I do a little bit of yoga every day, and I’m drinking more water. I practice mindfulness meditation with my husband most days. I think I’m kinder and gentler with myself, because texts like this one in John have given me the reminder that my body deserves to be treated like a temple, and that I am created in God’s image, and deserve to love myself. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that I have become more faithful to how God wants me to live in my body, and it turns out this is better for my mental health as well!
I think maybe this is (at least part of) what Jesus was trying to say. He comes into the temple and by upturning tables, he is calling them from forgetting to faithfulness to God’s body in the world. In all of the business dealings, maybe they had lost track of the bodies involved in this place of God’s presence, and they needed something to shake them awake.
Hannah Campbell Gustafson
Hannah Campbell Gustafson and her family recently made a leap of faith and moved to Minneapolis, MN from rural Wisconsin. She is the outreach coordinator at Plymouth Congregational Church. Hannah is treasurer for the Mental Health Network, is trained as a social worker, has an MDiv, and is a Member in Discernment with the Southwest Association of the Wisconsin Conference of the UCC. She and her partner (an ELCA Lutheran pastor) share their lives with their young child Leona and their standard poodle puppy Óscar.