Jesus Cleans House John 2:13-23
We join Jesus and his disciples at Passover – the celebration of freedom and redemption. Josephus says there could have been up to three million Jews in Jerusalem during Passover. Jewish pilgrims came from all over the world.
Jews over 19 must pay a Temple tax: about 2 days wages. Many kinds of currency existed. Silver coins from Rome, Greece, Egypt. Temple tax had to be paid in Jewish coins. The foreign coins were unclean. Moneychangers exchanged your unclean coins for acceptable ones. Those traveling found it difficult to transport flocks for sacrifice, so they was conveniently supplied by
Temple and could be purchased there. None of this was counter to the Law and was quite accepted as the way to do things. But some problems had developed over time.
Temple Extortion and Exclusion
The moneychangers provided a great service, but they did so at an exorbitant rate. It was already a burden for the tax to be paid, but they charged highly for the service of exchanging the unclean coins for acceptable coins. You could bring your own livestock for sacrifice, but it had to pass a Temple inspection. Guess what? Your livestock almost never passed inspection! But thank God we have lambs without blemish for sale right here! Again, the same sheep could be bought else where for much less, but the Temple sheep that would
be accepted were outrageously priced. All of this extortion took place in the court of the Gentiles … the only place the Gentiles could come and worship Israel’s God. People like the Ethiopian Eunuch would find his the only place in Jerusalem to worship God. And now it’s a noisy place of livestock and coins.
It produced incredible wealth for the Temple.
So let’s read this familiar text with this picture in mind.
John 2:13-23 (NRSV) The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 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. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 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. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing.
I’d like for us to ask ourselves some questions based on what we’ve just read.
Does Zeal for His House Consume Us?
The disciples were reminded of Psalm 69 – the 3rd most frequently quoted Psalm in the New Testament. The zeal for building the temple had dominated the thoughts of King David – so much so that others criticized him for it. The world and the church can get into a frenzied zeal over so many things … how often it is for his house?
His Father’s House is the church. Paul described the church as the “household of faith” – a place where we are brothers and sisters with a Father who cares for us. Are we consumed with zeal for the church?
His Father’s House is Him. In verse 19 Jesus says if the temple is torn down he will raise it up in three days. The temple was destroyed and it’s sacrificial system was defunct once the Lamb of God was sacrificed once for all. Are we consumed with zeal for Jesus?
His Father’s House is Us. Paul teaches that the temple of God is now us – and the Holy Spirit lives within us. Does our zeal for God consume us – all of us… intellect, spirituality, physical life?
As disciples of Jesus I pray that we will be consumed with zeal for Jesus in such a way that He impacts everything we think, do, and say. The zeal Jesus had caused him to cleanse the Temple of elements that were disrupting true
worship and praise. A second question I’d like to ask…
What Do We Need to Clean Out? What Tables to Turn?
Sins of Complacency – The extortion being practiced at the Temple during Passover had occurred for many years. The prophets of the OT often issued scathing denouncements for the priests. This practice continued and everyone was used to it. What sins have continued in our life for so long that
we’ve just gotten used to them and no longer are moved to try to remove them? Clean them out!
Sins of Convenience – maybe one reason for complacency was that these moneychangers and providers of livestock were just making things easier for everyone. What sins in our own lives are we allowing to continue because it’s easier just let it continue? When is the last time we pushed ourselves to do
something difficult because we were convicted God desired it? We can fall into the trap of working very hard to meet the demands of our job, school, favorite recreation and pouring very little effort into our Christian walk. Sins of convenience – overturn the tables!
Sins of Consecration – the Temple system perpetuated the illusion of religion.
If we do the religious acts, then all is well with God. Jeremiah 7:4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of
the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” When we serve God without our hearts, is he pleased that we at least went through the motions? How many of us will taste the body and blood of Jesus and never really think about the price paid for our freedom from sin? Is church attendance where our religious life ends?
Sins of complacency, convenience, and consecration can destroy our spiritual life with God.
Does Zeal for His House consume us? What do we need to clean out? To Turn over the tables?
One of the ways we can keep from falling into these traps is to keep our minds on Jesus. (Vs. 22After 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. ) What do we remember about things Jesus said and did? Do we remember that Jesus died so that the world could be set free from sin? So that WE could be set free? The priests allowed the house of God to become a den of thieves and robbed the pilgrims of their money and the Gentiles from being able to worship because they did not have their heart centered on the Lord.
Vs. 23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. When you think about this episode in the life of Jesus I pray you will be reminded to believe in the One who had authority to call us to be zealous for Him and to overturn the tables of sin in our lives. To let Jesus clean house.
1. Solomon’s temple was a spectacle to behold. The second temple wasn’t quite as ornate. However, it still held a place of significance to all believers in God. What’s the most beautiful building you have ever been able to visit?
2. There is discussion about how many times Jesus cleansed the temple. John places this account in the first part of Jesus’ public ministry, the synoptics place it right after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. If we assume that this was all the same occurrence, read these other accounts and notice additional details they present that John does not.
3. A house of prayer for all nations. (Mark 11:17) The Temple consisted of a series of courts leading into the Temple proper and to the Holy Place. There was first the Court of the Gentiles, then the Court of the Women, then the Court of the Israelites, then the Court of the Priests. All this buying and selling was going on in the Court of the Gentiles which was the only place into which a Gentile might come. An uncomfortable question: What is there in our church life which may be a barrier to the seeking stranger?
4. Sins of complacency, convenience, and consecration are terms that are similar to worship without reverence. What are some factors that can lead to worship without reverence? What increases your reverence when you worship?
5. I once knew a man who claimed that this was his favorite story about Jesus. (And I believed him, he was always turning over some tables whether they needed it or not! jd)
*What makes you uncomfortable about this story?
*What do you like about what you read in this story?
6. Why do you think John placed this story so close to the beginning of his gospel when the other writers placed it near the end of Jesus’ life?
7. What is the one area of being zealous for Christ you’d like most to grow in?
In John, Jesus dies as the lambs are being slaughtered in the temple in preparation for the Passover meal (19:14,30-31). In that way the passover frames the Gospel of John. (Davis Hankins)
“Jesus was not objecting to religion, or to the particular religion they were trying to practice. They were buying the offering specified in God’s law for the ritual acts specified in God’s law. Jesus objected to the misidentification of the temple with a marketplace, a place people go to get conveniently what they want or need. That was not the purpose of the temple. … The more subtle issue is the pervasive marketing mentality in today’s North American version of Christianity. When we move to a new town, or when we get fed up with our old church, we go ‘church shopping.’ We want our needs met; so we shop around to see what the different outlets have to offer. Using the phrase, we make ourselves consumers aiming to buy bit of religion. … One good step in that direction is to leave behind our sense of what we are shopping for and direct our full attention to God’s presence as we gather every Lord’s Day.” Gary Neal Hansen
Jesus’ body was a temple in a unique sense. It was the body in which the Word had become flesh (1:14). The Father indwelt it, as did the Son (14:10-11) and the Spirit (1:32-33). It therefore uniquely manifested the Father. It was also the site where God then manifested Himself on earth, as He had done previously—though to a lesser extent —in the tabernacle and temple. (Constable)
Daily Bible Study by William Barclay
Notes on John Dr. Thomas L. Constable http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/htm/NT/John/John.htm
Feasting on the Gospels, John, Volume 1. (Gary Neal Hansen, Davis Hankins, et. al)