…”Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
The synoptic gospels record Jesus at a similar incident crying out, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples, but you have made it a den of robbers”. Their focus is more on the house of God and prayer. But John’s focus is on Jesus Himself. He records what the disciples remembered about Jesus, quoted from Psalm 69:9. This prophetic scripture is not about an incident, but about Jesus’ life attitude towards the things of His Father. He was always zealous for the glory and honor of God. It was very evident in this, His first confrontation with the religious establishment.
The Jews were also concerned more about Jesus than what He said.
So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
A fair enough question for those who aren’t sure. But these Jews weren’t willing to believe. They didn’t care about the desecration of the temple, but they did about brazen meddlers into their domain.
As I said earlier, John likes to fill in details that the other gospel writers left out. While they mention Jesus cleansing the temple, their accounts say nothing of Jesus’ claim be God’s Son (vs. 16), or the Jew’s demand for a sign of His authority. (Luke has the question come later – apparently days later.)
When Jesus called God His Father, He claimed equality with God, and with that, authority from God. When He cast the merchants out of the temple, it was as if His Father, the Owner of the house, did it. He was the Undercover Boss’ Son.
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
The disciples got a little more uncomfortable and confused here. Their Master had just drawn unfavorable attention on Himself (and themselves as well). Now He made this brash, impossible claim. “Did Jesus just say what I thought He said?”
The confusing part is that Jesus had just acted to protect His Father’s house. Now He says He’s going to destroy it?
The Judaical leaders expressed what was going through their minds…
The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
…not that John understood this at the time. It would take Jesus’ death and resurrection before this incident came to mind and the disciples understood.
When therefore 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.
Jesus was just scattering seed that would sprout and flourish later. In three years Jesus would rise from the grave and appear to hundreds of people. It would be a sign much greater than merely destroying and rebuilding the temple in three days.
The resurrection would reveal His authority to cast out the buyers and sellers from the temple.
The resurrection would reveal His authority to judge the whole world – to let them into heaven or send them to hell.
And as John wants us to see, the resurrection would lead many to faith in Jesus.
A couple random thoughts on this passage:
Is there any significance to the fact Jesus always cleans the temple around Passover? Why not some other time? The central picture of this holiday was the lamb that was slain in exchange for the life of the firstborn when Israel was in Egypt. It must have angered Jesus, who would offer His life freely, to see people making money off of those symbols of Himself.
How does this passage relate to us today? Some see similarities between the merchants in the temple and bookstores and coffee shops in some large church buildings. Maybe they have a point, but church buildings are not temples. All of the saved are part of the Body of Christ. We are God’s temple, His place of worship. So we need to apply this passage primarily to ourselves. Jesus called His body a temple. His whole life was spent in communion with His Father in heaven. His body was a holy “house of prayer”. Can this be said of us?