John: Jesus Clears the Temple Courts

Read: John 2:13-25

John wastes no time in documenting Jesus’ reaction to those making a profit off of people coming to the temple to offer sacrifices. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all place the event much later in their message, so I have to wonder why John places his emphasis so early in this account. It’s also important to keep in mind the significance of the previous discussion about turning water into wine. These events have deep meaning when we take time to step back and consider John’s intentions when compiling his narrative. Let’s dive in and take a look at the scene.

It’s nearly Passover, the huge event for all Jews since the days of Moses. Think of this as Christmas times ten (or more). It’s a very big deal. The people are coming to the temple as required by their law to offer sacrifices. Some of these folks have to travel a long way. It’s difficult and complicated. The solution: set up a system to buy what you need and save yourself some trouble! Hence, the merchants appear.

Convenience isn’t always synonymous with evil, so don’t get me wrong. I like having the Bible available in multiple translations on my mobile devices. It’s convenient. There’s no badge of honor to gain by carrying around fifty pounds of books. But there’s a problem when we choose the convenience and comfort over sacrifice and change of heart.

The system probably began with good intention, but humans are notorious for taking something good and making it bad by turning it into a self-serving profit-making opportunity. Jesus sees the heart. He’s not the least bit distracted by our outside appearances.

In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 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.John 2:14-15

Note: the animals were for sacrificing and money exchanging facilitated changing a wide variety of currencies into that which facilitated paying the temple tax. Here’s an interesting article if you want to go deeper [ Link ].

The disciples think back to what the Old Testament prophets described as one who was zealous about heartfelt worship, one who would not tolerate mechanical worship. The mere thought sends chills down my spine. Would Jesus come into our courts of worship with a whip? Take a look at my comment on the previous post. I truly don’t think Jesus was pleased with half-hearted, checkbox worship back then and I don’t think He’s the least bit happy about it now.

The Jewish leaders are completely confused. I have to imagine there was a ton of discussion and debate about this scattering of money and dispensing of animals. John only gives us a few highlights to reveal the religious leaders are completely confused. This bridges the span between water to wine in Cana and the next chapter when Nicodemus has to sneak in to talk to Jesus. Again, I’m fascinated with how John crafts the story.

The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” John 2:18-19

Here’s where the writing gets a bit cryptic. Jesus’ answer leaves them scratching their heads. Well, I’m in the same boat. John explains that Jesus is making the point that He is the temple and He will be resurrected, but Jesus’ brief response at that moment would not have adequately explained His authority or even come close to answering the question.

John is using the scene to make a point, he is setting up his Gospel account to tell the story of Jesus’ life while introducing us to theology that helps us understand why Jesus did what He did. The Jews can’t and won’t see the signs and wonders right before their eyes. Most are lost in a system of laws and rules that prevent them from understanding. Sound familiar?

Even back in those days, they were able to look back and see why He did these things.

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. John 2:22

John is looking back at the events to provide a current explanation. This is beautifully written for us to appreciate the simple complexity. Compare, “Then they believed” here in verse 22 to “and His disciples believed in Him” in verse 11. Do you see how John is building his case for Christ?

I’ll leave you with John’s words today, much better than anything I might add:

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. John 2:24-25


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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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