What would happen if Jesus showed up at our worship service? Would He commend us for our perseverance (Rev 2:3)? Would He rebuke us for lukewarmness (Rev 3:16)? Would He come in and dine with us (Rev 3:20)? Would He make a scourge of cords and overturn our tables (John 2:15)? What would Jesus say and do if He walked through those doors? John is presenting testimonies concerning Jesus’ identity as the Christ, the Son of God. The fourth testimony comes from His disciples who remembered His holy zeal.
After the wedding in Cana, Jesus “went down to Capernaum…and they stayed there a few days” (2:12). The Passover was near so Jesus “went up to Jerusalem” (2:13). The Passover is a 1-day Jewish festival celebrated on the 14th day of the 1st month (Nisan) on the Jewish calendar. It serves as a reminder of God delivering His people from slavery in Egypt (Ex 12; Deut 16). It specifically commemorates the final plague when the destroying angel passed over the Jewish houses (that had blood on the mantle) but came upon the firstborn son in the Egyptian houses. Passover is a feast of salvation in which a sacrifice was made that satisfied the wrath of God.
Commotion in Your House
Jesus had been to the temple numerous times in His life but this visit was different. Jesus “found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables” (2:14). Jews from around the world would come to the temple to offer sacrifices and pay the Temple tax. Those who traveled far were not required to bring their animals with them. They could purchase animals for sacrifice at the temple (Deut 14:24-26). They would bring their own currency but would need to exchange their coins for coins that were acceptable in the temple. This practice became rife with abuse.
Passion for Your House
Jesus was well aware of the abuses and “made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables” (2:15). The problem wasn’t the money changing; the problem was that the Jewish authorities had turned “My Father’s house into a house of trade” (2:16). Whereas the money changing and purchasing of animals began as a necessary means to holy worship; over time it became a money-making enterprise that hindered holy worship. Jesus’ anger was the result of God’s house being profaned and He took action to stop it.
In the latter clearing of the Temple (Matt 21; Mark 11; Luke 19), Jesus explicitly rebuked the people for making His Father’s house into “a robber’s den.” The outer part of the temple (the Court of Gentiles) was being polluted with commerce so that the Gentiles who came could not worship properly. Jesus’ disciples “remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house will consume Me.’” (2:17 quoted from Psalm 69:9). In driving out the money changers, Jesus displayed holy zeal for His Father’s house and His Father’s business. Zeal is a passionate commitment. Zeal includes emotion, but is more than emotion. It is a passionate commitment that is fueled by love for God.
Elevation of Your House
The Jewish authorities had no idea what was going on. They must have heard what John the Baptist had been saying about Jesus and were aware of Jesus’ teaching. When they saw Jesus casting the money changers out of the temple, they asked Him: “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things” (2:18)? In other words, who do you think you are? Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). If that is not the answer you expected, you are not alone. No one–at this time–knew what He was talking about! The religious leaders assumed He was talking about the temple. They mockingly said to Him: “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” It appears from the text that Jesus chose not to answer anymore and left the temple. John 2:23 tells us “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.”
It wasn’t until Jesus’ resurrection that His disciples understood what He meant with His statement: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” John records for us that Jesus wasn’t speaking about the temple in Jerusalem but “He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (2:20-22). What is Jesus saying? Jesus knows His actions in the temple are meant to elicit persecution from the Jewish and Roman authorities. He knows that His earthly ministry leads to the cross. His body (true temple) will be destroyed and raised up (resurrection) in three days. He also knows that the temple will be destroyed in 70AD.
By clearing the temple, Jesus displayed zeal for God’s house and foretold judgment on the Jewish religious authorities who had allowed the house of worship to deteriorate into a house of merchandise. Jesus’ cleansing of the temple testifies to his concern for pure worship that comes from a right relationship with God. We are to forsake superficial worship and be zealous for Jesus and His ministry.
If Jesus walked through those glass doors, what would He say and do? Would He commend or rebuke? Would He do a little of both? If you were on trial and the charge was zeal for Christ? Would there be enough evidence to convict you? Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. In Him we have life. Are we living our life with zeal for the Lord?
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