This passage occurs in the RCL Lent Season, Year B, most recently March of 2015. It also occurs in the Narrative Lectionary Year 4 Epiphany season.
There is a great play on words in this section that our English translators (perhaps through no fault of their own!) cover up. Jesus uses five different terms to describe the temple complex. The most challenging distinction is between house of market and a house of God. I do not think our churches are in danger of becoming marketplaces, even those with starbucks in their lobbies. I still think when it comes to Sunday morning, these are the two options, two alternative worlds we live in: a house of market, where we have to work, pay bills and shop or a house of God, where we can rest, receive God's grace and give thanks.
Key words - two small ones and then a big one!
φραγελλιον ("whip", 2.15) The word here for whip will be used against Jesus in Matthew and Mark.
λυω ("free"; "destroy", 2:19) The word here for destroy actually means to loosen (remember the basic verb conjugation charts?). It also means to destroy, but an interesting idea. How does Jesus death set him free?
Temple: Five for one!
There are five words used here for temple:
ιερον (2:15): The word hieron (rough breathing mark means its English equivalent starts with an "h")is essentially the same word as a word for sacrifice. This word comes into English as hierarchy. It refers to the whole temple complex. It is interesting to note that all the animals being purchased were for sacrifices. Any system of sacrifice inevitably leads to priestly power, abuse and money; in short, hierarchy.
οικος του πατρος μου (house of my father; 2:16) Jesus here identifies his relationship to God and the temple. If it belongs to his father, it belongs to him too. What does it mean for something to be God's house? How might we look at church differently if we saw it as God's house?
οικος του εμποριον (house of market; 2:16) German has a nice word: Kaufhaus, in which the word for shopping center contains the word house. Since we don't in English, the writers drop it and say, "market" instead of the literal "house of market." While our churches today may not be a house of market, I wonder if this really is the alternative to church: a few more hours to purchase things on TV, at the mall or on the internet; a few more hours to work; a few more hours to pay bills.
ναον (temple; 2:19) This word properly refers to the actual sanctuary, as opposed to the entire court. (Ie the place where the people worshiped and the priest made sacrifices).
σωματος (body; in nominative: σωμα; 2:21) In the Gospel of John, in spite of how "spiritual" everything seems, there is no escaping the bodily death and resurrection of Jesus! Finally, the place of sacrifice, the place of worship, the dwelling of God is in Jesus body. Jesus had already alluded to this at the end of chapter 1 when he said that angels would descend on him, referring to Jacob, and calling himself, indirectly, bethel, the house of God, the earthly portal to heaven.
2.16 Jesus switches words here from the narrators "temple (hieron)" to "oikos (house).
2.20 Jesus now switches to the word "naos" (temple) which means building that is a dwelling place of the holy; Paul tells us in 1 Cor that we are a "naos." Then John inserts that Jesus is talking about the temple of his body (somatos). In short, Jesus is shifting away from talking about a place of worship to a house of God to a dwelling place of God to finally himself.