John 2:13–25—Jesus Clears out the Temple Court
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”
17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”
18 But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.”
19 “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” 21 But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.
23 Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. 24 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. 25 No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.
Points of Interest
- ‘so Jesus went to Jerusalem’—properly speaking, every Jew was supposed to travel to Jerusalem each year to celebrate the Passover holiday (Deuteronomy 16:5). In reality, attendance was by no means perfect. It seems that from the very beginning, Passover observance could become a bit lax (Nehemiah 8:17). By Jesus’ time, the Jewish people were so numerous and so far flung that it was simply impossible for all of them to gather in Jerusalem every year. Nonetheless, spending Passover in Jerusalem was considered especially blessed.
- ‘exchanging foreign money’—imprinted as they were with pictures of foreign gods, normal coins were not allowed in the temple. Before they could be offered or spent in the temple, they would have to be exchanged—for a fee—for the special, religiously approved temple currency.
- ‘in three days I will raise it up’—it’s verses like this that lead scholars to believe that John is aware of the other gospels, and even assumes knowledge of them among his readership. The other gospels slowly build toward a dramatic climax in Jesus’ death and resurrection. John suddenly and rather poetically and indirectly refers to it in chapter 2. Jesus’ death and then his resurrection are not surprise plot twists in John’s story; they’re the backdrop against which the entire story takes place.
- ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple’—in fact, the temple still wasn’t quite finished. Herod the Great, a terribly unpopular usurper, began major renovations on what had been a rather modest building in order to gain some favor with the people (after having just killed off the entire royal family and taken the throne for himself). Continuing long after Herod’s death, the project transformed the temple into one of the more impressive buildings in the entire Roman empire. But all of that is beside the point Jesus is trying to make.
- ‘he meant his own body’—the temple is essentially the physical manifestation of God’s presence among God’s people. In that case, Jesus himself is a far better temple than a pile of stones funded by a bloody tyrant and filled with profiteers.
- ‘Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature’—everybody enjoys a good fight, and everyone loves an underdog. So the people are entertained by Jesus’ face-off with the temple officials. But Jesus is not under any illusion that they are in some fundamental way on his side.
Taking It Home
- For you: Far from being impressed by the Jewish leaders’ dedication to the temple, Jesus is actually infuriated by how it has driven them and others away from God. Take some time today thinking about the things in your life you have worked the hardest at or invested the most in. What is it that you’re pouring your time and resources into? Take some time to ask God what he thinks about that. Have you been spending your energies in the right direction? Has your big dream at all gotten in the way of you simply drawing closer to God?
- For your 6: Ask your 6 what their experiences of church or places of worship have been like? Did they have good experiences? Bad? Are they, like Jesus at the temple, infuriated by hypocrisy they’ve seen? If past experiences of churches or places of worship are hindering your 6 from connecting with God, ask God to heal those hurts. Pray that your 6 would find a place or community—maybe it’s a church, or maybe it’s not—where they could easily connect with God.
- For our church: Most of us think we’ve greatly advanced since the days of the den-of-robbers temple described here. However, don’t you wonder if what’s described here is indicative of the natural tendency of any place of worship to somehow lose focus? All sorts of clutter builds up and becomes barriers that get in the way of people experiencing God. Ask God to protect our church from that tendency. Ask God to remove any barriers that we have actually created ourselves. Ask God to make our church a place where people can easily come and experience God without distraction.