3rd Sunday of Lent (Year B)

We’re presented with the scale of our redemption from the King who was a willing sacrifice. What words can capture that kind of love?


First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17

  • The 10 Commandments are prefaced by God’s statement: ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.’ God ties his identity to the act of delivering his people from slavery in Egypt. This way that God chooses to identify himself occurs repeatedly throughout the Old Testament. The Exodus became a central lens through which God was understood. For us as Christians, Christ is our Passover lamb who delivers us out of slavery to sin; God, as the one who sets people free, remains central to how we understand him.
  • Among the 10 Commandments, two stand out for their expanded length: that against idolatry, and that to keep the sabbath. Idolatry is a prevalent theme throughout the Old Testament narrative, coming up in many different ways. Consider how idolatry might manifest in today’s world; is it as simple as placing something else above God (money, fame, etc) or does it go deeper than that?

Psalm: Psalm 18(19):8-11

  • This psalm is one of a number which praises the law of God in the Scriptures. It’s unclear if these psalms refer just to the Torah, or Pentateuch, or to the entirety of God’s written revelation; but, either way, it’s striking the kind of devotion given to God’s communication with his people. Do we treasure God’s word in the Bible?
  • Consider how praising God’s law is an appropriate response to the reading of the 10 Commandments. Upon hearing the commandments of God, are we spontaneously moved to worship? If not, how might we move ourselves more into that space?

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:22-25

  • Paul was well aware of how strange it seemed to preach a crucified Messiah. It was unacceptable to the Jews, as death on a tree was seen as a curse, and sacrificial death was not what they expected of the Messiah at all. To the Greco-Roman culture, it was an absurdity, as we can see from graffiti that has come down to us from those early days of the church. But Paul was convinced that there was inherent power in the preaching of Christ crucified, power to touch the hearts of those God was calling out to through the Holy Spirit. The same is true today, but are we as plain and straightforward in our proclamation of Jesus as Paul?
  • The last part of this passage has entered into English as something of an axiom: that God’s foolishness or weakness surpasses the wisdom and strength of humanity. But we should be careful not to remove it from its context. The wisdom and strength Paul brings to light is cruciform, which is all about the cross. How central is the cross to our lives and our evangelisation?

Gospel: John 2:13-25

  • As we explore below, those whom Jesus drove out of the Temple were making a living out of providing available sacrificial animals acceptable to the Temple priesthood for those who had travelled to Jerusalem. They were providing a service to change whatever local currency people had come with into the quality of silver needed to pay the Temple tax as directed by the Romans. They were charging very high exchange rates to do this in the name of God. So, they used convenience and oppressive exchange rates to facilitate ‘legitimate’ worship. Originally, the Temple finances would have helped to give money to the poor rather than to Rome, but this charitable distribution was becoming less prevalent.
    In what ways do we do model similar practices today?
  • Consider the verse that notes: ‘When Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.’ In the context of the passage, are you surprised to see the inclusion of the scripture alongside the words Jesus had said? Which scriptures are in view? You may also want to consider how the Resurrection bolsters faith in the scriptures.
  • There is an enigmatic conclusion to this gospel passage; that ‘Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them; he never needed evidence about any man; he could tell what a man had in him.’ What might this passage mean? What does it tell us about Jesus and his divinity?


We have some amazingly striking readings today: the 10 Commandments given at Mt Sinai and the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus. With the best will in the world, the impact of these events can be lost on us. So, I’d like to invite us to enter this gospel in an imaginative way.

Imagine you’re a pilgrim to the Temple. You live in Tarsus, a Greek speaking city on the south coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Every year you travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Some of your rich friends can take the journey by boat, but you, being slightly less well-off, make the journey over land by cart. It takes you around a month. It’s not the most comfortable journey, and taking a few months away from your trade-in Tarsus damages your wallet, but you try to observe the Torah as best you can.

You arrive in Jerusalem tired and relieved. The city is bustling. It feels like the walls wouldn’t be able to contain any more people even if they wanted to! Your cousin, who lives in the city, tells you that the city easily swells to 10 times its normal population when Passover occurs each year. You make your way to your cousin’s house and are greeted warmly. You’re lucky to have a relative in the city who can give you somewhere to sleep as you see many other people and families pitching tents wherever they can find room, often drawing the anger of the locals if they block access to a house or business.

You haven’t yet bought your lamb for the Passover. Most people didn’t travel with the animal they intended to sacrifice. It was different if you lived in or near Jerusalem, but to bring one all the way from Tarsus? It just wasn’t really feasible, and besides, the risk of the animal getting injured, so it wouldn’t be an acceptable sacrifice was just too great. Fortunately, traders set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles around festival time to provide not just the lambs but a money-changing service to exchange your Roman coins for purer silver shekels from Tyre, which were the only form acceptable to pay the annual Temple tax.

The next morning, you head up to the Temple’s outer court to purchase your lamb and get your silver coins. Herod’s Temple is an enormous edifice, and it towers over Jerusalem. As you enter through one of the gates into the wide outer court, you see the place is buzzing with activity. You hear the chatter of thousands of people and the bleating of thousands more lambs in pens. There are also cattle and birds in cages for the other forms of sacrifice that took place in the Temple.

Your eye is drawn to an area not too far away from you. You hear gasps and shouts, and you notice that a crowd is starting to gather. Intrigued, you hurry over. A man is holding a leather cord and driving the cattle out of their pens. The owners of the animals are furious and try to stop the man, but he carries on. He sweeps out of their range and over to the money changers’ tables. He tips one over, and silver coins spill all over the flagstones with a clatter.

“Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” the man shouts at the pigeon sellers. ‘My Father’? You wonder what that could mean.

You know your Torah well enough to know that the Temple was a sacred place, consecrated and set apart for the worship of God and no other purpose. Ordinarily these sellers wouldn’t be in the courtyard, but Passover was different; there are just too many people! Where else would have the space to house all these people and the animals needed for the sacrifices? No, this was a convenient and logical set-up! Doesn’t that idealist live in the real world?

The man continues to drive the sellers away from him until a whole area of the courtyard is free of their activity. You turn and look at the Holy Place, the Sanctuary towering over the Beautiful Gate; it’s imposing.

As you look at the Sanctuary, you can’t help but feel that despite the convenience of having the sellers here, somehow, it doesn’t seem right. This is God’s house, after all, his presence – the same presence that shook Mount Sinai – just on the other side of that wall. You hear someone ask what sign the man can give for doing this, and his voice replies: “destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.” Your eyes turn to look at him, and you have a shocked expression. Three days to rebuild the sanctuary?! And this man would do it himself?! Who is he?

Your eyes lock with his.


  • The Church as Temple of the Holy Spirit; Catechism of the Catholic Church 809
  • The Moral Life and the Ten Commandments; Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 22-23; CCC 2064-2074 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)