The question for preachers on this Sunday is how the Ten Commandments are connected with Jesus’ insistence that the house of God is denigrated when it becomes a place for bargaining and making payments.
Perhaps this is an opportunity to talk about the blessing of the law Moses received from God, how it protects us, nourishes us, gives us plumb lines and boundaries, and plants those boundaries, as well, for others.
At least, this is a Sunday for reflection on Jesus’ zeal, the deep seriousness of his mission, the openness with which he left us to understand our own responsibilities, and the “foolishness” of our proclamation.
All four gospels recount Jesus’ confrontation with the moneychangers in the temple. However, John’s account is distinct from the Synoptics in several important ways. First, John places this encounter near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as the start of continual antagonism between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, rather than at the very end of his life, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as in the Synoptics. . . .
Second, the synoptic parallels contain no references to sheep and cattle or to Jesus’ violent act of using a whip to drive out the moneychangers.
Third, the Synoptics have him citing scripture, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13), while John has him saying, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”
. . . Some of the differences from the Synoptics may be minor, but the overall effect is to emphasize John’s concern for the demonstration of Jesus’ nature, his performance of signs, and his connection to other scriptural teachings. While the focus of this text is on the Temple, several of the other passages for today are loosely connected to this text in their emphasis on the law. – Jonathan D. Lawrence
I think we ought to take note . . . when Jesus gets angry. It is not recorded often in scripture. Many times he appears to be disappointed in his disciples for their inability to understand what he is about, but except for a weary complaint to his mother and a few sharp words to Peter, there are not many outbursts. This case is different and therefore important. What he witnessed in the temple was a direct contradiction of the message of grace for which he was prepared to give his life. He has no choice but to clear away the lie to make room for the truth. – Judith E. Simonson
In previous weeks there have been readings on the covenants with Noah and Abraham. This week’s reading from Exodus contains the Ten Commandments, in one sense the core of the covenant with Moses given at Mount Sinai. There have been many attempts to define or explain the structure of the Ten Commandments, too many to outline in this space. Even so, it is important to note that most of these regulations are pronounced succinctly with little explanation or detail. Unlike some of the biblical legislation that goes into extensive detail and is case-specific, these laws are presented as absolute principles, leaving the exact implementation to later interpreters and readers. – Jonathan D. Lawrence
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
Paul contrasts the message and power of the cross with the way it is perceived by the rest of the world. He suggests that even though the world might view the cross and faith as foolish, God’s way turns things around. . . . Paul sees wisdom not in the law, but in God’s “foolishness” in crucifying Christ . . . – Jonathan D. Lawrence
Jonathan D. Lawrence, an American Baptist Church ordained minister, teaches Religious Studies and Theology at Canisius College, Buffalo, New York.
Judith Simonson is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Homily Service 39, no. 4 (2006): 33-43.