Saturday, June 20, 2009

There's A New Sheriff In Town

I couldn't help but think of this video when I look at this scenario John, the apostle, lays out for us between the Jewish leaders and Jesus.
Let's review a moment where we've been. Jesus has just cleansed the temple in John 2. He had, by now, gained a
substantial following. The Jewish leaders, who were upset over his actions in the temple as well as disturbed by the cleansing of the temple, decided to confront Jesus.
After all, he was threatening their authority and possibly their relations with the Romans. He had to brought into line or be eliminated. He had to justify himself before them and prove that
he was what he claimed. He had to prove his authority.

But, there's a new Sheriff in town. Jesus threw them a curveball and gave them an answer they didn't expect. They demanded proof to validate their faith.
Jesus reversed the order of things and threw their question back into their faces. They wanted a measuring stick. He answered with love.
Faith is not something dependent upon what is perceived, seen. His answer to these self-righteous townspeople was to put a gun to his own throat, as it were, by exposing
their own sin of unbelief.

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

There response revealed their unbelief.

John 2:20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"

As Ms. Speyr says in her book, The Word Becomes Flesh Vol I, "They had asked for a miracle, a sensational one, to balance the Lord's unbelievable demands." They wanted a sign, a sensational miracle to pin their faith upon, in their own terms of belief. Jesus would have none of that. He is a man of a different color. He is the new sheriff. He is now making the rules.

Their question avoids his obvious answer and continues to focus on their expectations. Their measure of faith which is based upon tangible evidence. They looked at the temple around them and focused upon the visible. Jesus sees this and knows what they are thinking.

John then reveals the mind of Jesus.
John 2:21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

The next verse explains
"After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken."

I don't think even John at this time fully understood Jesus' words. But I'm not convinced the Jewish leaders didn't understand. I'm sure they did which explains why they avoided Jesus' answer directly. Jesus challenged them. His answer vividly highlights their lack of faith by focusing on the only true question and answer that could be responded by faith.

It's like the townspeople in that absurd scene from Blazing Saddles. They are looking for a young white saviour, a new sheriff that will solve all their problems. Then they see someone totally out of the realm of possibility. A black man. Mel Brooks has always pushed the envelope and here he does it masterfully. The black man comes in and plays a stupid game of on the one hand, appearing to be someone he isn't while at the same time presenting himself as the victim. It's a great scene that confuses the devil out of the public while at the same time showing their absurdity.

Jesus is doing the same thing. It is absurd to think that belief and faith rise from what we understand and see. His offer of his body, using the temple as the backdrop, as the subject that will be torn down and raised to new life in three days is absolutely impossible and absurd to the Jews. So they refuse to bite and believe. But Jesus is saying that faith isn't something you measure by tangible means of reasoning.

Faith first comes to us as a gift of love from God. Here Jesus is offering his body. He's saying to the Jews, tear my body down and in three days I will raise it up. They were being forced to take a step of faith, something offered to them, and return that love by faith to him and ultimately to the father.
Faith is measured by a response of love. Faith is only understood in a response of love. Faith is a response of love to love and the faith and love offered is what has been supplied by the object of faith and love.

The temple was only a symbol. His body was the real offering. That which kept them from understanding and accepting was, as Ms. Speyr says, sin. That three little word that nobody wants to say anymore. But it was unbelief, sin that nailed Christ to the Cross. But it was his resurrection that destroyed sin forever. That made room for faith. Faith is only possible through the resurrection. Now that Christ has risen from the dead, sin no longer has dominion over us. We can, through faith, overcome sin when it rears its ugly head. And that faith is offered to us in love by Christ because of his resurrection. Only then can a person understand and comprehend love in all it's fullness in God.

Ms. Speyr then teaches in later passages that the love given to us by God is then exercised in love by us. First in our adoration of our Lord and through others. The greatest experience of love for God is returning his love in faith through people we encounter daily. When we love others through faith, that faith is received by God in it's fullest sense. We die to ourselves in the lives of others that love may have it's fullest expression before the Father.

As vs 22 we're told the disciples remembered what Jesus had said about his body and it was only then they understood. They remembered after the fact. The remembrance increased their faith. Just so in us, remembering, practicing those things that remind us of what Christ has done for us, strengthens our faith. So Bible reading, prayer, communion, and for Catholics, the Eucharist and Adoration, all add to our faith being strengthened. Remember. And let your faith grow.

And get to know the new Sheriff. He's full of surprises.


  1. This clip makes me want to watch all of Blazin' Saddles.

    Very interesting post. You make a good presentation of this temple scene.

    I have been reading N. T. Wright and he argues persuasively that the temple scene is not really a cleasning but a judgment. That is why the Jewish leaders get so angry with him. Already he is announcing God's jusgment on the temple which will be delivered in AD 70. Jesus is the new temple - the presence and forgiveness of God.

  2. N.T. Wright is one of my favorite writers. I think his view on Paul and Justification are right on. And I agree, I think Jesus really was pronouncing judgment on these guys.