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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[John 2:13–3:21]

THE Passover of the Jews being now at hand, Jesus went up to Jerusalem (Fig. 69). Finding in the court of the Temple men that sold oxen, sheep and doves for sacrifice, together with money-changers, He made a whip of small cords and drove them all out of the Temple. He overthrew the money-tables, and said to them that sold doves: “Take these things hence, and make not the house of my Father a house of traffic.” Then the disciples remembered that it was written: “The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up.”

 

Fig. 69. Jeruasalem, seen from Mount Scopus. (Phot. Bonfils.)

Now some of the Jews who had remained in the Temple, being angry, asked Him: “What sign dost Thou show us, seeing Thou doest these things?” Jesus, referring to His own Sacred Body, said: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

The Jews, supposing that He spoke of the material Temple in which He stood, said to Him: “Six and forty years was this Temple in building, and wilt Thou raise it up in three days?” But Jesus spoke of the temple of His Body. Many other signs and wonders did He work in presence of the Jews, many of whom were converted. But many others would not be convinced of His Divinity. Like their fathers of old, they wilfully closed their eyes to the light of truth.

Among those who believed, was Nicodemus, a ruler in Israel. He had a great desire to become a disciple of Jesus, and coming to Him by night for fear of the Jews, he said to Him: “Rabbi, we know that Thou art come a teacher from God, for no man can do these miracles which Thou doest, unless God be with him.” Then Jesus explained to him how he was to become a member of His mystical Body on earth, which is the Church, and told him: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a man be born again of water and of the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” These words referred to the Sacrament of Baptism.

He next instructed Nicodemus in the mystery of the Redemption. “As Moses”, said He, “lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by Him. He that believeth in Him is not judged, but he that doth not believe is already judged.” In these words the Saviour taught Nicodemus that He would redeem the world by His Passion and death upon the Cross.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ is in this chapter proved 1) by His words, 2) by His deeds, and 3) by the prophecy He made.

1. In the Temple and in the presence of many leading Israelites, Jesus distinctly declared Himself to be the Son of God, calling the Temple the house of His Father. If God be His Father, He must be the Son of God.

2. He proved His Divinity by the power and majesty of his indignation when He drove the buyers and sellers from the Temple, quelling in the most wonderful way every sign of resentment or resistance on their part (Origen).

3. He showed His Divinity, or, to speak more exactly, His omniscience, by distinctly foretelling that the Jews would kill Him (destroying the temple of His Body), and that He would raise His dead Body to life again on the third day.

Different ways of receiving grace. Our Lord’s miracles served to increase the faith of the disciples, who perceived in His action in the Temple the fulfilment of the prophecy that the Messias would be full of zeal for the house of God. The miracle and our Lord’s direct testimony to His own Divinity were likewise a grace for the Jews who happened to be in the outer court of the Temple. The grace of faith was offered to them, and they resisted it: they would not believe, and demanded a fresh miracle in confirmation of the first. God gives His grace to all men. But man has the power of resisting it.

The Body of Christ was the living Temple of God, because in Him dwelt the fulness of the Godhead; He being the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, with all power, wisdom and holiness. Our bodies, too, become the temples of the Holy Ghost by Baptism and Confirmation, because God the Holy Ghost dwells in us by His grace. “Know you not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? But if any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which you are” (1 Cor. 3:16 17). This living temple of God is defiled by every mortal sin, especially by those against holy purity.

Behaviour in the House of God. Jesus, full of a holy zeal, reproved and punished the buyers and sellers who were behaving themselves irreverently in the outer court of the Temple. A Catholic church is far more holy than was the Jewish Temple; and Christians who behave without reverence inside, or near it, deserve sharper reproof and heavier punishment than did the sellers in the Temple.

Holy Scripture is not the only source of faith. Scripture, after relating the purifying of the Temple, says that Jesus performed many miracles in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood; but what these miracles were, the holy Evangelists do not tell us. This shows us that not everything which Jesus did and taught is related in Holy Scripture. St. John writes thus at the end of his Gospel (21:15): “There are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written!” Christian revelation is, therefore, only partly contained in Holy Scripture.

In His Discourse with Nicodemus our Lord has revealed to us the chief truths of the Christian religion.

1. The Holy Trinity. The words of our Lord imply that there are three Persons in God: God the Father, who gave His only-begotten Son, and the Holy Ghost, of whom man must be born again.

2. The Incarnation. The only-begotten Son of God, who came into the world, is also the Son of Man, the divine and human natures being in Him united in one Person.

3. The Sufferings of Christ. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Jesus therefore knew definitely from the beginning that He would die on the Cross; and His bitter Passion and Death were ever before Him! To offer Himself on the Cross was the object of His Incarnation!

4. The Object of His Passion and Death is also clearly stated in the words: “that the world may be saved by Him”, and “that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting”. He willed to suffer and die in order to save man from eternal loss, and obtain happiness for him. He died for all men, and is therefore the Redeemer of the whole world.

5. The infinite Love of God. Why was it the will of the Son of God to redeem us? What was the motive of His Incarnation and Death? It was, in a word, His infinite and divine love for man. “God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son!” What! God, the Most Holy, loved the world, laden with sin and a curse! He loved the men who had offended Him and turned against Him millions of times. And He loved them so much as to give for them all that was greatest and dearest, even His only-begotten Son, to suffer for them humility, poverty, persecution, and even a miserable death upon the Cross! O, unfathomable and inconceivable love of God!

6. The necessity of Baptism. Only he who is born again of water and of the Holy Ghost has any part in the kingdom of God. By Baptism man becomes a member of God’s kingdom upon earth, i. e. the Church of Jesus Christ, and an heir of God’s kingdom in heaven. Thus Baptism is absolutely necessary to salvation.

7. Original sin. The words of our Lord testify to the existence of original sin. They suppose that by our natural birth we have not that spiritual divine life in our soul which was given to our first parents in Paradise, and consequently that we have lost the principle of that life, sanctifying grace and all that was connected with it. We are born (spiritually) dead. This is the sin of our origin from Adam.

8. Necessity of faith in the Divine Redeemer. Our Lord teaches the necessity of such faith by these words: “That whosoever believeth in Him may not perish”;—“He that believeth in Him is not judged, but he that doth not believe is already judged.” He who wilfully refuses to believe in the Incarnate Son of God has no part in Redemption. Such an unbeliever refuses to have a Redeemer. He is hopelessly lost, because he refuses to be saved! “The wrath of God abideth in him” (John 3:36).

APPLICATION. Your body, too, is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Have you ever defiled it by unworthy pursuits? Make a firm resolution to honour your body as the temple of the Holy Ghost, and never to defile it!

Many Christians behave irreverently in church, in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Such people deserve indeed to be driven out of church with scourges! Our Lord does not, it is true, drive them out now, but at the Day of Judgment He will deal more severely with them than He dealt with the buyers and sellers in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Do you thank God every day for your Baptism, and for all the graces which, without any merit of your own, you received with it?

Do you love God, who is so infinitely good, with your whole heart? How do you show your love? Do you pray willingly and devoutly? Do something special to-day, for the love of God.








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