- EXODUS 201-17
- I COR I:18-25
- JOHN 2:13-22
Finding out who we are is an important task. Start with babies: they want to know they are loved, that their needs are going to be met. Their need for attention, for affection, for food and drink, for protection, and everything else. Boys soon want to be with their dads.
By early teens, we feel really grown up, want to make decisions for ourselves. So Luke reports that teenage Jesus “had to be” in His Father’s House. Somehow Jesus has got to know his Father isn’t Joseph. A step-father isn’t the same. Jesus wants to find out about his real Dad.
For the people of Israel, it was the same. They have to know who they are, how they are different from all the other Middle Eastern peoples. Too easy for Brits to rely on our coastline to give us a separate identity. Think of Europe, think of the Middle East, full of nations trying to grab territory from each other. That’s how it is, always been, for Israel.
The Ten Commandments which we heard at Mattins is a heroic statement of national identity. Ten Statements would be better. Kings have always issued Laws, to be obeyed.
Yahweh is Israel’s King, and as King he gives his people their Laws. This fact has been obscured by traditional translation, as well as by authoritarian reading at Church Services. Impassioned is better than jealous: God is passionately committed to his people. The Decalogue (ten words) is a statement of national identity.
Paul has a hard task here, he’s preaching not to any old pagans, but to an elite. What’s more elite than Corinth, only Athens, the most elite city of the whole ancient world..
Paul’s message is about an executed criminal from a despised race, about a God who’s died on a rubbish heap at the wrong end of the Empire. Paul’s God confronts a world of posturing power (think of classical marble statues, so much admired in the European Renaissance) – seeking to overthrow all that by a weak and foolish kingdom, a kingdom of the sort of riff raff befriended by Jesus. So Paul is deliberately teasing, hoping by humour and irony to make his deadly serious point: Jesus IS the Christ, power of God and wisdom of God.
Then we come to John’s Gospel. Jesus by now knows exactly WHO He is, the power and wisdom of God, while the magnificent Temple, wonder of the ancient world – we can still visit its remains– underneath all its splendour will soon be no more than a heap of rubbish. Who IS this Jesus, the Temple authorities ask ? Just a Galilean, of mixed race. WE are pukkah members of the royal tribe of Judah, we know what’s what, we can see through his claims.. Pooh to him. He’s the Temple is he ! But He is speaking of the Temple of his Body. We shall see. We shall see.
Antony Grant CR