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The Third Sunday in Lent (3/7/2021)

Ex. 20:1-17; Ps. 19; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; John 2:13-25.

Zeal, [Jesus] told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples [in the Resurrection] remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (vv. 16, 17).

Last Sunday we pondered the necessity of Jesus’ suffering and death (Mk. 8:31); and that we “rejoice in our sufferings” (Rom. 5:3). The ground for suffering is located in Daniel’s prophesy, “with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom…” (Dan. 7:13, 14).

Jesus was exalted on the cross for the sin of the world, glorifying the Father, for which the Son of man is given dominion, glory, and a kingdom he shares with his baptized saints. For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross (Heb. 12:2) and the Baptized rejoice in his word and work.

The enthronement of the Son of man in Daniel begins our revelation of heaven’s marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7, 9), foretasted each Lord’s Day and festival day in Christ’s hidden kingdom under his broken Body and Cup of our Supper.

Of the weddings at which I have officiated, invariably St. Paul is announced, “This mystery is profound … it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). Of course, in the moment it is impossible for the participants to fully appreciate spiritual realities; a wedding being fraught with excitement and high levels of family absorption, especially the man for the woman and “visa versa”.

The union’s spiritual profundity is only apparent in what is later unexpected, the 1,001 ways couples offend, act inconsiderate, boorish, and hurtful, frustrating the other’s will, plans, and desires.

When fidelity holds sway, the couple accommodate, forgive, and set aside anger in favor of marital touching from which comes the hope and promise of new life. In this, Rome is not far off calling marriage “sacrament”; yet not of the church’s administration, rather in the daily lives of a “believing priesthood”.

In Lent we put “Fat Tuesday’s” carnival excesses behind, entering a forty-day season of repentance and mortification of flesh for reflection on sin and the One who purifies and prepares us for his end time wedding feast.

First, we reflect on man’s initial marriage; God delivered an exquisitely beautiful woman to the man; like Adam she was made in God’s image; not only that, her creation was bone of the man’s bone and flesh of his flesh, a perfectly suitable help-mate for dominion in the creation, one flesh together.

Adam coming out of his sleep would have been bedazzled by God’s gift, enthusiastically taking her to love, honor, cherish. The woman, new to the Garden, overcome at sight of the man; he was like her, yet not the same; her protector and teacher for Service to God. Modestly, she would have trembled, consenting to love, honor, and obey the man out of whom she came; both pledging troth to the union.

With sin, matters turned ugly. The woman no longer of a piece with her spouse, “desired” his office and authority; no doubt frustrated by man’s physicality if not always his mentality. Satan-like, the man was no long the woman’s protector but ingrate toward God as the woman’s accuser.

What was once union in the “imago Dei” became competitive, something less than sacrificial love; nevertheless, the two rejoiced in God’s prime command for dominion, “be fruitful and multiply”. If love, cherish, honor, obedience, and purity were to be restored, God of necessity, would again have to be the Giver.

The Ten Commandments is comprehended in marriage. God called Israel to himself, a people marred of beauty, an abased slave in Pharaoh’s house. Unloved, Israel became a churlish, ungrateful shrew grumbling at the least kindness.

By the grace of Passover, God rescued Israel in a baptism through the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai. There Moses delivered God’s marriage proposal to Israel; that if they would obey and be faithful to the marital covenant, he would be their God, and they his treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Ex. 19:3-6); Israel accepted (v. 8).

The Lord descended in Holy Fire; both Sinai and Israel “trembled”. God spoke directly to his bride revealing his identity (20:1). He is the only God, so his people should “have no other gods” and worship him alone. Keeping his commands, Israel would represent his will and love in the world.

They should not murder, unlike Satan “a murderer from the beginning… [having] nothing to do with the truth” (Jn. 8:44); God is author of Life so his people must honor their parents bringing them to life; they will not commit adultery because God is steadfast spouse.

They are not to steal, playing the fool, as all things in heaven and earth belong to the Lord and so them; they will not bear false testimony, for the word of the Lord is truth; their neighbor is brother whose personal relations may not be violated; nor covet his property, for the Lord gives according to his own wisdom.

At Sinai’s altar, marital promises of obedience were confirmed in a peace offering of sacrificial blood. After blood on the altar, the people were sprinkled uniting them to God in legal matrimony. The marriage thus consummated in blood; Israel’s tribal representatives joined in a mountain-top feast, eating and drinking in God’s presence (Ex. 24:9-11).

Today, our Gospel has Jesus “cleansing the temple”, a pubic act, following his change of water’s purification sign to NT wine of a coming purification in water, blood, and Spirit from the cross in the Resurrection.

After Cana’s chief of signs, Passover was at hand; Jesus entered Jerusalem’s temple to drive-out God’s previously commanded sacrificial animals. Jesus was not repristinating nor reforming the temple of its commercial practices; rather he was serving notice that the temple’s function and future was being fulfilled in his presence according to the prophesy of Malachi, “suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple… And he will purify …” (3:1-3).

Jesus’ “cleansing” was prophetic of God’s new dwelling place, “Zeal for [his Father’s] house will consume [him]” (Ps. 69:9; Jn. 2:17); Jesus’ crucified and resurrected body is now where God is perfectly served.

The singular water and blood from Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is that which purifies NT Israel for union and participation in the end times marriage feast of heaven, foretasted in our Pascal Lamb, by whose blood, death passes-over.

Love by nature is sacrificial toward the beloved; so, no surprise that God, who is Love (1 John 4:8), has his being and dwelling in the flesh of the Son of man who gave his life for us.

Love is revealed on the cross, the wisdom of God; a stumbling block for Jew and Greek foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18, 23). Jesus, before the Ancient of Days, as Son of man reminds, humans communicate by touch with those they love, especially in the nuptial chamber, the place of our new purification portended by Cana’s wedding celebratory wine, baptismal water and blood in our crucified and risen Lord.

Purified by Jesus’ touch we are united with him, our new Adam. Hand in hand the Son of man presents us spotless to the Ancient of Days in communion with his sacrificial flesh, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, to share dominion, glory, and a kingdom Table. Amen.


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