The Gospel of John
Larger Context: Jesus’ Self-Disclosure in Word and Deed (1:19-10:42)
This Study: The Witness of the Raised Temple (2:13-25)
The temple was the center of Judaism – the center of Old Covenant worship. It was the meeting place with God. There once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat. Everyday there was a morning and evening sacrifice. In the days of the Old Covenant, when one thought of God, the temple would come to mind. With the coming of Jesus, all that is going to change.
(i) The Temple must be cleansed (v. 13-17)
“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’ ”
If the Lamb come in meekness responded this way in the temple, what about when He comes as a Lion (Rev. 6:16-17)? Oh how we need the cleansing of the “destroyed temple!”
The money changers were actually doing a service for those who came to worship at the temple. After all we wouldn’t expect a Jew from across the Mediterranean to drag a lamb along with his luggage. However, the problem that developed was that the business had so taken over that real worship was hardly possible. The environment was more that of a fair than a house of prayer for all nations. Though they kept the form (sacrifices etc.), they had departed from the worship of God Himself (see Amos 5:21-24).
Old covenant worship was tied to the temple and the sacrificial system. In the new covenant that all changes. Romans 12:1-2, clearly proclaims that worship is now bound up in all of life, for we are the temple of God – the place of worship. We are not to reduce “worship” to a so-called worship service or even worse, to the singing part of that service. Worship is being God-centered in all of life – from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed. We are to live as worshippers of God all the time.
When people redefine “worship” as a special act performed at a special time, they are able to come in to “corporate worship” and yet nurture all their bitterness, or know they’ve just cheated on our income tax, or they’ve yelled at their children all the way to the “service”, or they’ve no integrity – and yet “they’re here to worship!” Oh, would not Jesus respond as He does here in this passage in John 2:13-16? God is not interested in forms. He is interested in reality. He knows the hearts of men (see John 2:23-25).
God’s Christ does not win popularity polls in a fallen world. He was so devoted to and zealous for the cause of God. It was written of the Christ, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.‘ Literally it states that ‘Zeal for Your house has consumed Me.’ I think that this is a foreshadowing of the cross. So zealous for the name of His Father was He, that He went to the cross to die there to demonstrate the righteousness of God. The fact that Jesus goes on to explain that the temple of His body must be destroyed and raised again, makes it very likely that He has the crucifixion in mind.
(ii) Jesus’ right to cleanse the temple (v. 18-22)
“So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’
Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’
Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’
But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.”
If Jesus had behaved like some vandal, He would have been arrested as by the temple police. However He did this, it was done with moral integrity and authority. (i.e. notice that there was no destruction of or loss of property to anyone; not even the doves were released to escape) The response of the Jews seems to indicate that their own consciences know that Jesus did the right thing.
In Jesus’ response to them, He is referring to His body as the temple. Jesus Himself is the meeting place between God and His people! He is the temple! Jesus says if you know Him, you know God. In fact, we see item after item from the Old Testament Scriptures picked up by John, who declares Jesus as its ultimate fulfillment.