12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So
he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both
sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and
overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Have you a favorite picture of Jesus? Is there a certain image in your mind that you equate with Him? Over the years, many artists and sculptors have tried to show what they think the Son of God looked like. Most of them are calm and serene; some are sad or thoughtful . . . not too many are angry, or show Him with a whip in His hand. We don't often think of Him that way. But that is what we see in this passage.
Got your shovels ready? Let's dig in!
There are many events in the life of Jesus that show up in one or two of the gospels, or even in three. But it is kinda rare for it to be reported in all four, with the obvious exceptions, of course being the crucifixion and the resurrection. The cleansing of the temple is one that shows up in all four . . . with some differences. Maybe we should check this out.
In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus enters Jerusalem the week before He is crucified, and makes His way to the temple, where He chases the money collectors out. It happens during His last week on earth, and is actually something that speeds things along -- the teachers and the high priests realize that Jesus is not someone who can be controlled by them.
Here in the Gospel of John, we have a different sequence of events. Here the temple is cleansed at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. It happens three years before His death and resurrection; it is one of the early things that shows His authority.
Now, there are two possibilities here (and I'm not unaware that this is NOT a big deal, OK? It's just an interesting thing to look at. It doesn't change anything, either way. What we can learn from the life of Christ is still there for us.)
One possible answer is that John is not remembering it correctly, and is mixed up on the sequence of events in Jesus' life. So, he writes about this happening much, much earlier in His ministry than it really happened.
I am not one hundred percent happy with that option, because of all the gospel writers, John is the one who knew Jesus best. He was the "beloved disciple," and one of the twelve that traveled with Jesus. He was with Jesus from the beginning.
The other option is that Jesus cleaned out the temple more than once. He could have done this once at the beginning of His ministry, and once at the end. If it happened twice, perhaps He was not as "out of control" as some indicate when they preach from this passage. Perhaps He was making a point -- making a point to His disciples, the leaders in the temple, and to those of us who learn from the scriptures now. Maybe it was an important point, so He made it twice.
If we come right down to it, I guess it doesn't really matter if it was at the beginning of His ministry, at the end, or twice. What matters is that we "get it." That we understand what He wanted us to see in this.
In those verses above, Jesus specifically identifies His own body in connection with the temple. Did you see that the disciples asked Him by what authority He cleansed the temple? We can see that they want to know, "how can we know that You are speaking for God?"
He responds with a rather cryptic answer; He is almost speaking in code, you might say . . . but our translator is John.
Jesus tells them that if the temple is destroyed, He will raise it again in three days. And John explains that He isn't really talking about the temple at all -- He is talking about His own body. And, He is talking about the fact that people will destroy His body, and He will raise it again in three days.
Jesus is predicting His own death and resurrection, something that will happen three years into the future. Three years from this particular time in His ministry.
You see, He knew from the very beginning what He was facing. He is talking about the power of Easter.
But He is also hinting that what He did in the temple is not just about the temple. We see a deeper meaning to His casting the moneychangers, sheep, and cattle out of the temple. They've taken God's house and turned it into a marketplace -- they've taken a holy place and found a way to use it to their own purposes.
Tomorrow we'll look at some other scriptures that will help us better understand what Jesus is telling us here.