“Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

John 2:19

Thursday, 11 March 2021

John 2:13-25

But, I hear you say (those of you who have travelled with me thus far), “It’s all very well talking about this stuff about challenging illegitimate authority like Jesus, but what do you replace it with?”

Once again, a very fair question. History teaches us how successful revolutions have led to situations where things either stayed the same apart from leadership changes, or got worse. Wonderful claims, some not unlike a promise to rebuild the temple in three days, have often not been met – whether through incapacity, incompetence or self-interest.

Let’s look at Jesus’ claim a little closer. Put aside for a moment any possibility that his promise was of a miracle to rival any of the documented ones.

Two things strike me. First, one might see this statement as a rhetorical device deliberately sidestepping the authorities’ question. For Jesus, the corruption of the temple and genuine worship has already destroyed the temple. It’s almost as if he is saying, “The temple is better off gone. It is not worth saving!”

I think this resonates with a lot of us. There are institutions and organizations that have lost their way and seem beyond redemption.

Second, Jesus speaks here of his own death and resurrection. And if we think of the Resurrection event as a process for the rest of the disciples, we can see that three days is a symbol. New life, change, comes after death. Thus just as Jesus seems unperturbed by the ‘death’ of the temple and his own possible death, so too the lesson for us is the same. We should let what is dead die and prepare for renewal.

Ask yourself: what institutions, organizations, and practices need to die so that something new can emerge?

More importantly: Why am I still frightened by this?

Loving God,

Give us the freedom of Jesus to let go of institutions that need to die so that we may live better;

May the Spirit strengthen us and help us in the letting go.


Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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