In the Gospel of John, we see the many faces (or attributes) of Jesus Christ. We see Jesus’ grace, compassion, love, ability to perform miracles, and his heart of service towards people. Rarely do we talk about his anger. Jesus got angry at times, but it was not the kind of anger that you and I may experience that often led to sin and unrighteousness. It was the kind of anger that was aimed at sin and unrighteousness. Jesus’ anger is, what many call, righteous anger. In our passage today, the Apostle John writes about his first-hand experience and eyewitness of Jesus’ righteous indignation and intolerance toward sin that was present in the Temple of God. In this passage, not only do we see his intolerance, but we also witness his violent response to the individuals who were the root cause of this sin. This is a side of Jesus that we rarely see, but it is a side that we must take notice if and look at why Jesus responds the way he does.
In today’s message, we will look at Jesus’ cleansing of the temple; and in this account, we will see the significance of his anger, what his response represented, and what we can learn from it all.
John 2:12 - 19
The Cleansing of the Temple
Vs 12: – Following the wedding ceremony at Cana (when Jesus changed the water to wine) Jesus, his mother, his half-brothers, and five disciples went Northeast about 16 miles to Capernum.
Verse 13 –Passover was a Jewish Festival celebration in late March or early April. Passover is a yearly holy day set apart for the Israelites to observe the exodus from Egypt, particularly the passing over of the Israelite firstborn males when the firstborn of Egypt were struck down in the last of ten plagues. Most likely, Jesus is traveling from Capernum to Jerusalem for Passover. This was about a 120-mile journey.
Verse 14 – When Jesus came to Jerusalem, He went to the temple… This incident took place in the outer courts of the temple (called the court of the Gentiles). During the week of Passover there was heavy traffic in and out of the temple. People would travel from great distances to offer burnt offerings sacrifices and to pay the temple taxes. Many people would buy animals to sacrifice in the Temple courts, instead of dragging along cattle, sheep, or doves on their journey to Jerusalem.
In the outer courts there were money changers who would convert various denominations of money (since people came from all over there was different currency) to the approved temple currency. They would then charge a percentage or service fee for converting the money. People were not allowed to use the denarii or attic drachmas in temple purchases because the imperial Roman portraits were imprinted on the coins. The Roman denarii and Attic drachmas were not permitted to be used in paying the half-shekel temple-tax because the Jews considered the portraits of the Caesars on the coin as idolatrous. The money changers would exchange the coins for legal Tyrian coinage for a small profit.
Verse 15 –The Temple was the center for worship of God, it was not “just a building” it was symbolic of the epicenter for all religious worship of the God of Israel. When Jesus saw what the money changers were doing it infuriates him because they were profiting from God. The Temple was intended for worship and the cleansing of sin and now it had become a place that harbored greed, profiteering, and sin. The Father’s House, the Temple, which was intended to be a holy place had now become a place of greed and thievery. It had become the antithesis of what it was intended.
Verse 16 – Jesus overturns the tables and used whips and ropes to drive the money changers our out and says, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” Theologian D.A. Carson writes, “Jesus’ complaint is not that they are guilty of sharp business practices and should therefore reform their ethical life, but that they shouldn’t be there at all.” Jesus could have easily incited a riot and it could have turned out bad for everyone. Jesus was interrupting business, and large profits were being made and Jesus was demanding that it all stop.
Verse 18 – The religious leaders respond in a way one would not expect; instead of having him arrested for this outbreak or brought before the High Priest for claiming God is his father, they i ask Jesus for a sign to justify his display of authority. Someone who did such a thing would have certainly been questioned by the temple authorities and most likely disciplined for his actions. Since they asked Jesus for a sign shows that that they may have been suspicious as to whether Jesus was indeed a prophet or the Messiah. They were looking for Jesus to do a supernatural sign to prove that He had authority to drive out the money changers and profiteers.
John 2:19 - 22
Verse 19 – 22: Jesus says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
This is ludicrous. Astonished, the leaders replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?”. Interestingly, they were asking Jesus for a supernatural sign and he offered them one and they responded in disbelief. In their view, it would have taken a supernatural act for this to happen. But Jesus was not talking about the physical temple, he was talking about the spiritual Temple. His body is the Temple, and soon it will be destroyed on the cross of Calvary, and after three days, he will be fully restored, alive, and rebuilt once again. Jesus was saying that the time of the temple was ending, and the time of the new temple had come. Jesus is now the true Temple. We see this in Revelation where there is no temple in the New Jerusalem because God will dwell with his people. Through his death and resurrection, there will be no need for a Temple, because Jesus will be the fulfillment of the law and the sacrificial system will no longer be necessary.
Significance, Symbolism and What it Means for Us
The cleansing of the temple has significance for us. The Cleansing was a sign from Jesus to teach us that God demands and desires pure worship from His children. Sin (i.e. profiteering from the name of God) will not be tolerated. Yet, it is not just the sin of profiting from the name of God that Jesus is against; He is against sin in the body as a whole. This place of worship (the Temple) had become a den of thieves, of sin and needed a cleansing and purification. This applies for us and for the Church as well. God will not tolerate his people openly committing or accepting sin on a personal level or a church level. Yes, there will always be sin in the church or in us individually (because sin is ever present in us) but when a church or individual allows or openly accepts sin to reign or not confront it (looking past it or not wanting to confront it head on) then there will be consequences and God will clean house.
In I Corinthians 6:19 the Apostle Paul declares, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So, you must honor God with your body. The Temple (physical building) is no longer necessary because the body in the new Temple. This building is not the church, you are the church and if we allow sin to run rampant in our lives then God will not/cannot bless the body. I do believe God does clean house and he has done so with this church. I am not sure he is finished with the cleansing yet but knowing that He will deal with sin is for us either comforting or terrifying. Now, I don’t tell you this to scare you or make you feel as though you may be the cause of judgment. I tell you (and myself) because God has called us to be His children, His representatives, and His dwelling place. He desires that we be a holy body and we cannot be holy on our own. It is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we may be holy. We as a body need to be vessels of the Holy Spirit. I suggest you and I begin praying that God would search our hearts and our lives and do a spiritual “house cleaning” if you will in our own lives so that He may bless this body and our lives in ways that we could never imagine. In doing this realize that God is not against you and is not waiting in the dark corners ready to strike and expose your sins to the world. He is for you, and He wants to have a relationship with you that is unhindered by sin and unrighteousness.
We may have this unhindered relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through his death and resurrection, we now have forgiveness from sins, we have freedom from sin and we have faith to live our lives for the glory of God.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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