Thursday, January 17, 2008

Healing the Blind and Lame after Clearing the Temple

Matthew relates that, immediately after Jesus drove out those who were buying and selling in the temple, as well as the money changers, that "the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them" (Mt 21.14).

So Jesus completely disrupts the daily routine of offerings in the temple. The personnel are cleared out, and animals cannot be sacrificed (because they cannot be purchased), at least for the time being.

That Jesus healed the blind and the lame, however, brings to mind two passages in Leviticus.

In Lev 22.22, the LORD forbids any offering in sacrifice of any creature that is "blind or fractured or maimed." So, too, in the previous chapter, God prohibited the approach of any Aaronic priest who is "a blind man, or a lame man" (21.18).

So Jesus disrupts the regular system of offering in the temple, then heals the lame and the blind, qualifying them, as it were, as both offerors and offerings in the temple.

Perhaps even more pointedly. When Jesus told those he cleared out that they had made the temple a "den of thieves," he is, presumably, invoking Jeremiah 7.11: "'Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it it,' declares the LORD."

The message of the entire chapter in Jeremiah is pregnant with meaning for the Israel of Jesus' day, not least because he will advance basically the same warning to Israel: "Therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh" (Jer 7.14).

Compare that with, "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate. . . . Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down" (Mt 23.38, 24.2).

So Jesus here rejects the old temple, and the old priesthood, instead qualifying new sacrifices and a new priesthood around himself. Israel can be saved -- indeed, Israel is saved -- but only by recognizing that Jesus is the temple, and that he reconstitutes the priesthood out of the lame and the blind, which is what sin has made of us all.


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