Jesus does not come to destroy the temple, but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17) — to reveal its true purpose in God’s saving plan.
He is the Lord the prophets said would come — to purify the temple, banish the merchants and make it a house of prayer for all peoples (see Zechariah 14:21; Malachi 3:1-5; Isaiah 56:7).
The God who made the heavens and the earth, who brought Israel out of slavery, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands (see Acts 7:48; 2 Samuel 7:5).
Nor does he need offerings of oxen, sheep or doves (see Psalm 50:7-13).
Notice in today’s First Reading that God did not originally command animal sacrifices — only that Israel heed his commandments (see Jeremiah 7:21-23; Amos 5:25).
His law was a gift of divine wisdom, as we sing in today’s Psalm. It was a law of love (see Matthew 22:36-40), perfectly expressed in Christ’s self-offering on the cross (see John 15:13).
This is the “sign” Jesus offers in the Gospel today — the sign that caused Jewish leaders to stumble, as St. Paul tells us in the Epistle.
Jesus’ body — destroyed on the cross and raised up three days later — is the new and true sanctuary. From the temple of his body, rivers of living water flow, the Spirit of grace that makes each of us a temple (see 1 Corinthians 3:16) and together builds us into a dwelling place of God (see Ephesians 2:22).
In the Eucharist we participate in his offering of his body and blood. This is the worship in Spirit and in truth that the Father desires (see John 4:23-24).
We are to offer praise as our sacrifice (see Psalm 50:14, 23). This means imitating Christ — offering our bodies — all our intentions and actions in every circumstance, for the love of God and the love of others (see Hebrews 10:5-7; Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5)
Scott Hahn is founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, stpaulcenter.com.
Exodus 20: 1-17
Psalm 19: 8-11
1 Corinthians 1: 22-25
John 2: 13-25