Have you ever been shocked at the ending of a book?

Have you ever been shocked at the ending of a book? This week's readings are from Exodus, introducing the Ten Commandments, 1 Corinthians, where Paul writes about Christ's crucifixion being a “stumbling block” to many; and the Gospel of John, which describes Jesus throwing people out of the temple. In each event, God shows that he understands our human nature and the things that trip us up, but he never stops trying to bring us back to him. 

In the first reading, God gives the Ten Commandments to the Israelites through Moses, knowing the Israelites were disobeying him as he had Moses on the mountain. The Israelites were making idols of false gods not even 24 hours after Moses left to talk to God. The Israelites and everyone else since haven’t been able to keep God's Commandments. We try, but it's impossible because of our sinful nature. Aside from establishing a moral standard, the point of giving laws and commandments, in part, was to show us that we can’t keep them and cannot earn our salvation. The Israelites struggled continuously with the rules God gave them, and their nation was destroyed again and again, but God faithfully returned them to the land each time. They were allowed to stumble and trip over the laws as they headed toward a promised Messiah who could help them with salvation.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes to the early Christians about how many Greeks and Jews missed the symbolism behind Christ's crucifixion and how Jesus was a “stumbling block.” The Jewish people stumbled over all the rules, they stumbled over who they thought the Messiah would be given what they took from prophecies, and the Greeks thought the idea of a human sacrifice for sin was “foolishness.” Paul reminds the early Christians, "But to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Jesus came for all, not just the Jews or Greeks. He will keep trying to reach all his people even as they struggle and stumble. John then reminds us of the way back to God, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.” 

The Gospel of John tells about Jesus driving all the moneychangers and sellers out of the temple because it was a holy place. Making it a market to sell and trade things was disrespectful and distracted people there to worship and pray. Jesus points to why he has come throughout his ministry, even though nobody understands until after his death and resurrection. When questioned why he’s doing this at the temple, Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it.” John tells the reader, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, 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.” Jesus was teaching about the temple in his body. We no longer need to go worship and sacrifice in a temple; the way back to God is through Jesus and the sacrifice of his perfect body.    

God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments and laws, in part, so we see their failed attempts to meet God’s standard and hopefully relate it to our lives. Despite stumbling through God’s plan as it unfolded, God didn’t and doesn’t stop trying to bring us back to him. His plan starts with getting us to recognize that we can’t meet a perfect standard and need a savior. The way we meet God is through Jesus. Even though it was hard for people to shift to a person and not a place, that person is more accessible to go to. Knowing that Jesus is there and intercedes for me every time I sin is pretty cool. I see having to go to the temple all the time as a stumbling block, and I’m glad God keeps working throughout time to find us where we are. God knows the beginning from the end but still provides a way back to him, even if we stumble and trip our way through the gates of heaven.