“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
Jesus’ disciples heard him say this to the Jews after he overthrew the marketplace that had been set up in the temple. They had no idea what he meant—which wasn’t unusual. Jesus taught in parables and analogies that often sailed over the disciples’ heads, and this time was no exception. You have to give them credit for trying to catch them, though. If they didn’t understand something, they often debated among themselves before asking Jesus point blank what he was saying. But in today’s gospel reading (JN 2:13-25), the meaning of what their master said didn’t hit them until after Jesus rose from the dead. As John puts it:
“…when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.”
“Came to believe.” Isn’t it amazing that after all Jesus said and did—after all the miracles they witnessed and the inspiring lessons Jesus taught, that even those he selected to follow him had trouble fully absorbing what their master was about.
As Paul tells the Corinthians in our second reading (1 COR 1:22-25), we are called to trust in the personification of God’s wisdom.
“Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified … and Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
He adds that even the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. So when the Jews heard the “foolishness” that the temple could be destroyed and rebuilt in three days, they tried to understand it from their own context, not God’s. That is humanity’s greatest handicap. We can’t fit the mind of God into our puny little skulls. That handicap is counterbalanced by our greatest gift, though—faith. Our faith is that God’s plans for us are in our best interest, and that if we follow the path he laid out for us, it will lead us back to Him. God’s foolishness is that he keeps calling us back, even when we take detours.
Another thing Paul told the Corinthians gives us the strength to keep trying (1 COR 2:6-10):
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, the things God has prepared for those who love Him.”
In His mercy, God left us a set of commandments that couldn’t be plainer on how to love Him. As our first reading from Exodus (EX 20:1-17) tells us, He promised to bestow that mercy “down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Love isn’t always an easy command to follow, but life is about trying—just as the disciples kept trying to absorb everything Jesus taught. It is in trying that we tap into the immense power of God’s love, and that keeps us journeying down the road to absorbing the wisdom of God’s foolishness.