CLEANSING THE TEMPLE
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 2:12-13 (Holman) AAfter this, He went down to Capernaum, together with His mother, His brothers, and His disciples, and they stayed there only a few days. The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem.@
After the miracle at Cana, Jesus and His entourage headed for the Sea of Galilee coast, where they remained a few days before heading for Jerusalem, the heart, hub, and capital of Jewish religion.
John 2:14-16 In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and He also found the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers= coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, AGet these things out of here! Stop turning My Father=s house into a marketplace!@
Jesus was extremely displeased with what He found in the Temple. Judaism had become corrupt to the core. Even at its place of worship, where all business dealings were under the auspices of the High Priest, Jesus found defilement. He became so enraged that He drove money-changers and animal-sellers from the Temple.
What infuriated Jesus? Greed among the religious leaders. Over two million Jews came to Jerusalem for Passover. Most wanted to make sacrifices and give offerings, but they were confronted with two huge problems. First, people didn=t want to drag along a sacrificial animal from a distant place. Second, currency from Rome, Greece, Egypt, and other countries were commonly used, but the offerings and Temple tax had to be made in Aholy money,@ Temple currency. The religious leaders solved these two problems in three very ludicrous ways.
First, Temple authorities let people in Jerusalem sell animals for sacrifice. These same authorities appointed inspectors to examine the animals to make sure they were unblemished, fit to be offered as perfect sacrifices to YHWH.
Here corruption entered. The inspectors almost always rejected any animal bought outside the Temple. People thus had to buy animals inside the Temple at exorbitant prices. It was nothing other than religious people extorting poor people.
Second, money-changers exchanged Temple currency for Apolluted@ everyday currency. Profit made by the Temple was exorbitant. Barclay says, when Cressus captured Jerusalem in 54 B.C., he raided the Temple treasury and took from it over five million dollars without coming near to exhausting it.
Third, all business was transacted in the Court of Gentiles, the only place in the Temple where Gentiles could enter. This was their place of prayer, but the religious leaders despised Gentiles and took from them their only place of worship. People who wanted to seek God were, by the noise and din, being shut out from the worship of God.
Could a similar charge be brought against us? AIs there anything in our church life B a snobbishness, an exclusiveness, a coldness, a lack of welcome, a tendency to make the congregation into a closed club, an arrogance B which keeps the seeking stranger out? Let us remember the wrath of Jesus against those who made it difficult and even impossible for the seeking stranger to make contact with God@ (Barclay).
In Jesus= actions here we have His first assertion of the equality of all people before God. The place where Gentiles worshiped was as precious to Jesus as those places where Jews worshiped. Jesus used force to drive none into the Temple, but did use it to drive out those who tried to prohibit others.
John 2:17-18 And His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for Your house will consume Me. So the Jews replied to Him, AWhat sign of authority will You show us for these things?@
Jews believed Messiah would publicly display His power at the Temple.
Thus, the disciples and the crowd saw Jesus= act as a claim to Messiahship.
The disciples saw this cleansing of the Temple as fulfillment of Psalms 69:9. The Jews considered Psalm 69 Messianic. The leaders, wanting a miracle to be performed, in essence said, AYou claim to be Messiah B prove it!@
They were right in thinking God=s Messiah would do something miraculous in the Temple. They would never have dreamed the miracle would be the death of the importance of their beloved building.
John 2:19-22 AJesus answered, ADestroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days.@ Therefore the Jews said, AThis sanctuary took 46 years to build, and You will raise it up in three days?@ But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. And they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made.@
Jesus= remarkable answer told the listeners four things. First, the Temple would be destroyed (v. 19a). Judaism was at the end of its usefulness. Even its most sacred shrine no longer had a place in God=s economy.
Second, another Temple would be raised in the place of the old one (v. 19b).
Third, He predicted His own resurrection. His disciples did not grasp this veiled meaning until after the fact (v. 22).
Fourth, all three of the above were connected and interrelated. Through Jesus= death, burial, and resurrection He destroyed the old Temple and established another.
How did He destroy the old? The Temple=s purpose is beautifully and succinctly described by an early name for the Tabernacle, ATent of Meeting.@ It was the place where God and people met each other. The Holy of Holies, the Temple=s innermost shrine, represented the presence of God in His glory. The sacrifices offered by worshipers represented people=s desire to approach God.
The Holy of Holies and the sacrifices were what made the Temple important. Jesus= death rendered these purposes useless. The veil of the Temple was torn, and the only sacrifice that would ever be valid had been offered. The Jews kept sacrificing, but God wasn=t present in His glory any more. Their sacrifices were useless. God was gone and the people did not miss Him.
What is the new Temple? First, Jesus Himself was the new Temple (v. 21). AHe tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory@ (John 1:14). Jesus became the ATent of Meeting,@ the place where God meets people. He in Himself unites the God of the Holy place with the sacrifices offered on the altar. The veil of the Temple represented the flesh of Jesus (Hebrews 10:20). When His flesh was torn, people had freer access to the Father, and the Father had freer access to them.
Second, believers are the Temple we now see (I Corinthians 3:16). The purpose of a Temple is to provide a physical visible place on earth where people can look and see God=s glory. If the world is ever going to see God as He is, it must be through believers. Jesus returned to the Father that He might through the Holy Spirit dwell with and within every believer. This means each believer has inside him God=s glory. In other words, each of us is a temple.
God does not dwell in Temples made with hands. The Bible emphasizes this twice (Acts 7:48; 17:24). How ironic it is that people do things outside a church building they would never do inside it. The building is not sacred B our body is. We should treat our body as sacredly as we usually treat a church house.
Our churches will never be fuller of Christ than we as individual believers are. The only way to keep worldliness out of our church members is to keep their hearts filled with Christ.
We should enjoy the Glory, bask in its glow, and follow it. In the wilderness, the Tabernacle followed the movement of God=s glory.
We often reverse this, going wherever we want and dragging Christ along. We should instead let Him have control over our lives and be ever conscious of His presence.