John 2:13-25: Cleansing the Temple

Read: John 2:13-25

Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is one of the few stories that is recorded by all four of the gospels (Mark 11:15-18, Matthew 21:12-16, Luke 19:45-46). The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) record the even occurring during the week before Jesus went to the cross, but, John records it early in his gospel. Some think that Jesus may have cleared the temple twice: once early in his ministry and once late in his ministry. The order of events in the synoptic gospels is known, but John does not give any indication as to when the event occurred. One would have to assume that John is writing about the events in chronological order in his gospel to affirm that it happened between the wedding fest and before his conversation with Nicodemus. At the same time, because it does not say, it is also possible that John was not written in chronological order, and this event is indeed the same one in the synoptic gospels, which is probably the case. In either case, there is no reason to think that John got the facts about the event wrong because he recorded them early in the gospel.

Apparently, there was a bazaar-like atmosphere at the temple in which vendors were profiteering off of temple worship by setting up booths to sell sacrificial animals for temple worship. Jesus, who was obedient to the law, went to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover as many religious men would do. While he was going to the temple, he drove out the money changers and vendors. Jesus alludes to Jeremiah 7:11 (John 2:16), which is centered in the middle of a chapter about God’s wrath. Jesus calls the temple a house of prayer for all nations in Mark 11:15. It is probably the case that they had set up shop in the court of the Gentiles. Gentiles were allowed to worship here, but were not allowed to enter the temple as a Jewish man would be able to do. The disciples recall a verse from the Psalm 69:9 that talk about “zeal for your house” that had overcome the psalmist. The psalmist is overcome with grief because of sin and apparently has zealously gone to the temple to seek repentance. Jesus never sinned, but it is likely that he felt the weight of the sins of the worshippers calling out to God, and sought to restore this sanctity of the temple.

The Jews came to Jesus looking for a sign of authority to vindicate Jesus’ actions. Jesus answers them with a reference to his own temple – his body – but clearly the Jews did not understand this. Jesus was saying the sign would be manifested in his death, burial, and resurrection. The construction of the temple of Jesus day had taken some decades to complete, and was not completely finished until 64 A.D. and was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. The disciples remembered what Jesus said here, and it became clear to them after the resurrection. Jesus had opened their minds to the Scripture in (Luke 24:27) so that they could understand this.

Some people did believe in Jesus as a result of the signs that he was performing. What’s interesting here is that Jesus did not go with them, but instead withdrew. While the people believe, Jesus in his omniscience knew the content of their hearts and didn’t need anyone to tell him about man, probably because these believers were fickle.

People here believed in Jesus – and this is a good thing – but what happens after belief can be detrimental. The Bible calls one’s body a temple (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) and commands us to flee immorality. Jesus is just as zealous, if not more so, for the sanctity of the temple of the Holy Spirit as he was for the temple in Jerusalem, and he too cleanses the filth therein. We can be lured into things that seemingly promote the worship of God but actually inhibit it. As Christians, we should come humbly to him in faith that is not fickle, asking for repentance so that he can cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Lord, I believe, but help me to not be fickle in my faith.

Cleanse my temple and make me strong so I can be an instrument to lead others to you.