12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples; and they remained there a few days. 13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, "Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!" 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for your house will consume me."
18 The Jews then said to him, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" 19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." 20 The Jews then said, "This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?" 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. Version: NRSV.
- Jesus and his entourage spend a few days in Capernaum, his second home (after Nazareth). Notice that Jesus shares his "church friends" with his family members (v.12). Although his brothers do not yet believe (see 7:5), eventually they were won over.
- Jesus cleanses the Temple (v.13ff), which through the unspiritual influence of the priestly leadership had become a center of commerce and greed.
- Jesus intended to throw down a challenge to the powers that be. (Had he wished to interrupt all commerce, he would likely have had to kick over more than a few tables!) The message he sent was clear: "I oppose you, Annas and Caiaphas. You are not legitimate, and we are on a collision course!”
- His disciples felt his zeal. The word zealous is related to the word jealous, and suggests passionate concern with the honor and glory of God. (See 2 Cor 11:2 -- here Paul is jealous [zēlô] with a godly zeal [zēlō].) Zeal is not a synonym for "energetic," or even "heartfelt." Zeal entails passion, to be sure, but an intense spiritual ardor that is much more than mere heat. For more on zeal, be sure to listen to the OT Character podcast on Phinehas.
- Did Jesus do wrong?
- The text does not say Jesus whipped the vendors, only the animals. After all, Jesus forbade violence (Matthew 5).
- Some allege that Jesus lost his temper. Did he really sin?
- The scripture the zealous outburst reminded the disciples of was Psalm 69.
- Not surprisingly, the challenge was not well received.
- Asked to produce a sign (v.18), Jesus promises that the true temple of the Spirit (his own body) will be resurrected!
- As is common in John, his words are completely misunderstood (v.20). It’s as though Jesus is speaking on “channel 1” (the heavenly, spiritual channel), while his followers are usually tuned in to “channel 2” (the earthly, physical channel).
- John’s gospel is replete with both double entendres and misunderstandings.
- Watching others misunderstand can help us better to understand the important spiritual truths found in this gospel.
- Jesus’ miraculous signs led many to believe in him (v.23). And yet he knew the fickleness of the crowd. His knowledge of human nature (v.24f) prevented him from trusting humans the way he trusted his Father.
- When Jesus cleanses the Temple, he accuses the religious leaders of crass commercialism (v.16).
- In the Synoptic Gospels he charges them with having made a "den of robbers" (Jeremiah 7:11) out of a house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7). His ire was justly aroused.
- See the last chapter of Zechariah, and especially the last sentence: "And there shall no longer be traders in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day."
- When did the cleansing take place, near the beginning of his ministry (John), at the end (the Synoptics), or both?
- It seems John recounted the cleansing early in the gospel for a theological reason: to show that the "new wine" the Messiah was offering would not be readily accepted by the corrupt religious establishment. He was on a collision course with the Temple and its powerful priestly hierarchy.
- For ancient writers, at times theology trumps chronology. This is not a mistake, but a deliberate repositioning of the account of the cleansing in order to make a statement.
- The Temple had been under construction for 46 years. Ancient historians tell us that the improvements were still ongoing when the First Jewish War (with the Romans) broke out in 66 AD.
- The following Jewish saying illuminates verse 25: "Seven things are hidden from man: the day of death, the day of consolation, the depths of judgment, one's reward, the time of restoration of the kingdom of David, the time when the guilty kingdom [Rome] will be destroyed, and what is within another" (Mek. Exod. 15:32 (59b). This is yet another implicit claim to divinity, or at least of divine powers.
- Note: The ministry of Jesus in the gospel of John is constructed around three or four Passovers: 2:13,23; 6:4; 11:55 etc. In contrast, the three Synoptic gospels paint the picture of a one-year ministry with a single Passover.
- Do I rely solely upon my teaching to bring others to faith? Do I invest time in building relationships with unbelievers?
- If Jesus visited the church where I attend, how well would he be received? Would there be any overturned tables or traditions?
- Have I defined "zeal" biblically? Is it possible I, or others I know, have confused energy with conviction?