This Sunday offers us the possibility of listening to some more events of the last week of Jesus’ life, as they are recounted in the last two chapters of Mark (Mk 14-15). The story slows down considerably, and we are able to follow Jesus day by day at the beginning and hour by hour as he gets nearer and nearer to his death. He is symbolically prepared for his death when a woman anoints him with precious perfume (Mk 14: 3-9). He explains his death as giving life for the covenant God is now making with his people (Mk 14:22-25). He is then arrested, condemned and killed (Mk 14:43-15:47). Hs male disciples who should have understood him and stood by him betray and abandon him. He dies isolated from all but acknowledged by a foreigner as God’s Son (Mk 15:39) and watched over by his mother and female disciples.
This Gospel reading is part of the events of Jesus’ ministry before his arrest, judgement and death. John tells us how Jesus is anointed in Bethany by Mary (john 12:1-11), then follows the entry into Jerusalem as a humble Messiah but acclaimed by the people (John 12:12-19). There has been a growing tension in the story. Jesus knows that the end of his is near. The “hour” for which he has come is that of his death. At the same time, it is the hour of his exaltation and glorification by the Father. Like him, believers are also invited to die to themselves to enter more fully into the life of the Father.
The Gospel of today is taken from the last part of the conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. The chapter begins as Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus. He is curious to know Jesus better but is afraid of what the people will say; so, he comes at night. Jesus explains that his coming to earth is the expression of the love of God for the world (John 3:16). But to appreciate this fully and to participate in the life of God requires a second birth (John 3:3-8). In the part of the conversation we read today, Jesus speaks of a judgement that is taking place already. It is determined by the way people either choose to accept his light or to continue to dwell in darkness. He also speaks of his coming death as a “lifting up” through his elevation on the cross he will become a source of salvation for all those who believe.
Today’s Gospel tells of Jesus’ first visit to Jerusalem at the beginning of his public life. In the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke, the cleansing of the Temple is placed at the end of life. The disciples remembered it. the Jesus we know is always calm and never resorts to violence.
However, Jesus finds it intolerable that the temple, which is meant to be a place of prayer, has become a market place. To turn religion into a business is an insult to God. Jesus will not allow it. when the heart of our relationship with God is at stake, no effort is too much for him. He much ensure that the poor have as much access to God as the rich.