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Jesus Clears The Temple (ch. 2:12-24)


This section in John concerns Jesus going to Jerusalem at the Passover and getting quite upset with those buying and selling in the temple.


Verse 12 states that Jesus went down to Capernaum.  In terms of direction, Capernaum is not really down.  It's actually up.  In verse 13 the text states that Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Once again, in terms of direction, Jerusalem is not up.  It's down.  The New Testament, when speaking of Palestine, does not use the words up and down in relation to direction.  It speaks of up and down in terms of geography.  When Jesus went to Capernaum, he was going down in terms of elevation.  When He went to Jerusalem, He was going up in terms of elevation.    


Capernaum is a popular fishing town on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee .  It is where the Apostle Peter lived when Jesus first met Him. 


Note that at this period of time Mary and Jesus' brothers were following Him.  We know that His brothers had not accepted Him as the Messiah, at least not yet.  That would come later, after Jesus' resurrection.    


In verse 13 we see that Jesus visited Jerusalem , early in His ministry.  This tells me that Jesus began His ministry in the spring of the year, because Passover is a spring celebration. 


We should know that Jesus would have visited the temple each year of His life because Jews were to attend Passover in Jerusalem each year.  He would have gone as a child with His parents, and, He certainly would not have missed it during His years of ministry. 


We need to understand something at this point concerning Jesus' ministry years.  The standard Sunday school version of His ministry is that it lasted three years, but, no where in the New Testament does it actually say that.  Many people get the idea that Jesus ministered for three years based on three recorded visits to the temple at Jerusalem here in John.  Here in chapter 2 is his first visit.  In chapter 6 we see another visit, and,  in chapters 11,12, and 13 we see yet another visit.  In chapter 5, verse 1 another visit to Jerusalem might well be implied.  That would make four visits to Jerusalem for Passover.  That means at least a four year ministry.


To further the point of Jesus' ministry, it's commonly accepted that He was born in and around four to six BC.  It's also commonly accepted that He began His ministry at the age of 30.  If Jesus was born in 4 BC He would have entered His ministry at the age of thirty in 26 AD.  Most all believe that Jesus' execution took place somewhere from 31 to 33 AD.  If He was executed in 32 AD and He had begun His ministry in 26 AD, His ministry would have lasted six years. 


To learn about the Passover you can read Exodus 12 and Deuteronomy 16:1 through 6.             


In verse 14 we see the temple court where Jesus noticed men selling cattle, sheep and doves.  Others were exchanging money.  This temple was the temple that King Hared had built for the Jews.  It had several courtyards.  For example, there was a courtyard for the Gentiles, for women, for priest, and so on.  In the court of the Gentiles in Jesus' day became a short cut from one part of Jerusalem to another. 


The common currency of the day was Roman currency.  The Jewish currency was no longer in existence.  That being said, one could only buy what they needed at the temple, example sheep for sacrifice, in Jewish currency.  Therefore, there needed to be an exchange of currency before a transaction could be made, thus the reason for the money changer tables.  Of course, there was a fee charged to make this exchange of currency.  The fees went to the priests. 


You might wonder why sheep and goats were actually sold at the temple since one could bring a sheep from home to use as a sacrifice.  First of all, the Law of Moses stated that the sheep to be sacrificed had to be in perfect condition.  When people would bring what they thought was a perfect lamb or sheep, the priests would finds some minor, obscure, little flaw that would disqualify the sheep.  This would force the people to buy the sheep at the temple that weren't really any better than the sheep these people would have brought.  This was simply a money making endeavor for the priests.  No wonder Jesus would become so upset.            


In verse 15 Jesus got real upset at the commerce He saw in the temple.  He took the time to actually make a whip that He used to drive the cattle and businessmen out of the temple courts.  Animals would have went running in all directions.  Coins would have gone flying here there and everywhere.  It would have been total chaos.  This might not look like the Jesus that the world portrays today, but it is the real Jesus.  Jesus was down right angry. 


I believe that we often have a wrong picture of Jesus.  He was not a weakling.  He was not a wimp.  He was probably quite muscular.  His work as a carpenter, hauling large pieces of wood, rock, and stone, around was not an easy task.  The tables that He threw over were large wooden tables.  They weren't small, easy to tip over, tables.     


We should know that the priests became quite wealthy from selling the animals that Jesus just drove out of the temple courts.  You might call them the Prosperity Preachers of that day.  Jesus' action would have angered them beyond measure.  It would not have only disrupted that day's income but they would have accused Jesus of defiling the temple, something Jesus accused them of.         


In verse 16 we read that Jesus was upset because these men had made "his Fatherís house into a market place."  The temple was to be a place of worship and prayer, not a place of commerce.  I find this interesting.  The temple that Hared had constructed for the Jews was nothing like the temple that Solomon had built that was on the pattern of the tabernacle that God specified Moses to build.  It was actually Hared's temple, but even though an unrighteous man built it, Jesus called it His Father's temple.       


In Christian New Testament times Godís temple is no longer a building.  It's people.  It's the church.  It seems to me that we ourselves, that is the church, have become a place of commerce as well.  We have copied the business practices of the world in how we run the affairs of the church.  This should never be.  Iím not speaking of selling books or cd's in a church building.  A church building is only a building.  It is not holy.  I have no problems with selling books and other things in a church building. God does not live in our church buildings, but, He does live in us, and, when we commercialize ourselves and our ministries as we do, that is making Godís New Testament house a place of commerce.  I believe Jesus is just as upset over that as He was over the commerce in the temple here in John 2.  When I speak of us being commercialized I'm saying that we operate the body of Christ more like a business than what the New Testament teaches.  We're not a business.  We're a group of people who represent Jesus to the world.  We cannot copy the world as we represent Jesus.  


In verse 17 the disciples remembered the words of the Old Testament where it says, "The zeal for your house will consume me."  That's found in Psalm 69:9.  Jesus had great zeal for the Old Testament temple.  You must remember that these were still Old Testament times.  The temple still meant something, but for us, the temple no longer has the same significance.  A building is just a building.  We, the redeemed, are Godís temple. 


I believe the zeal for Godís New Testament temple consumes Jesus today.  If Jesus got so upset over the misuse of the Old Testament temple, how much more upset and consumed must He be over any misuse of the New Testament temple.  This is something that the western world church seems to not understand.  We must take this very seriously, lest Jesus does to us what He did to the temple in John 2.  Remember what Jesus told those in the Laodicean community of believers in Revelation 3.  He was about to spit it out of His mouth for the very same reason as He overthrew the tables in John 2. 


In verse 18 the Jews were quite upset with the actions of Jesus so they asked Him to show some kind of a sign to prove that He had authority to do such things in the temple.  The word "authority" is key here and will always be throughout Jesus' ministry.  The Jewish leadership could not deny Jesus' miracles, but they could deny the authority by which He performed these miracles.  .


Note the word "demand" in verse 18.  We really can't imagine how angry the religious leaders were.  They were furious.  The word "demand" tells us that this was no quiet request.  This was a major dispute.  It was a heated argument.   


In verse 19 Jesus answers the question of the Jewish leadership with a statement that they couldnít understand.  He told them that if they destroyed this temple, Heíd build it again in three days.  Well this made no sense to the Jews.  In verse 20 they told Jesus that it took forty six years to build this temple and He thought He could rebuild it in three days?  To the Jews Jesus made no sense at all.


Hared began to build this temple in 19 or 20 BC.  If we're at the forty six year point now, this would make the date of this time in and around 26 or 27 AD.


Verse 20 tells us that the religious leaders were clueless to know what Jesus was talking about, and, that is to be expected.  They were at the temple. Their understanding of Jesus' use of the word "temple" would be the temple they were attending at that moment.  


We see in verse 20 that Jesus was not speaking of the temple that stood in front of them.  He spoke of the temple of His body.  God lived in Jesus, so in the truest sense of the word, the real temple now was Jesus and not the temple of brick and mortar in Jerusalem. 


Verse 21 clearly tells us that the temple Jesus was speaking of was the temple of His body.


In verse 22 John said that the disciples remembered these words after Jesus rose from the dead and believed as a result.  Of course, the disciples already believed, at least to a certain extent, but the remembering of these words made their trust in Jesus even greater.  So it is with prophecy.  When we see a prophecy fulfilled, we trust Jesus more. 


Note that in verse 23 John specifically states that this occasion was at the time of Passover.  This is now the second time he does so. 


In verse 23 we note that during Jesusí stay in Jerusalem He did many miracles.  As a result many people believed in Him.  The word "believe" from its Greek meaning means that at least to a degree they gave themselves to Jesus.


In verse 24 John specifically says that Jesus did not entrust Himself to those who believed in Him.  What does this mean?  Jesus gave Himself to His disciples, but He did not give Himself to the general public in the same way, to the same depth.  Why?  John says because Jesus knew the heart of man, and it wasnít good.  In short, Jesus didnít trust man. He never really fully trusted the crowds that followed Him because they only followed Him for what they could get from Him.  The reason why we should follow Jesus is not for what we can get from Him but what we can give to Him.   


At this point I'd like to end this section with an article I wrote on John 2:23 to 25.


I think that some of us view Jesus while He was on earth as one who gave His whole heart and soul completely to everyone who crossed His path.  We might view Jesus in this light because He did give His human life on the cross for every man and woman who has ever lived and ever will live.  With this in mind, look at what the apostle John said about Jesus in John 2:23 to 25.  "Now while He (Jesus) was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name.  But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men.  He did not need man's testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man."  So what did John mean when he said that Jesus would not entrust Himself to man?


Jesus had just entered Jerusalem.  The crowd was going crazy over Him because of the miracles He had been performing.  In the minds of many in the crowd Jesus was the hottest new superstar in town.  Are you old enough to remember February 7, 1964?  Throngs of teenage girls screamed, cried, and even fainted, at the sight of the Beatles arriving in New York City for the first time.  Beatle mania hit New York hard that day.  Jesus mania hit Jerusalem pretty hard too; and why not?  A mere touch of Jesus' hand or maybe even a glance of His eyes might be the thrill of a lifetime.   


Jesus wasn't fazed by all this attention and adoration because He knew the sinful condition of man's heart.  Flattery and fame meant absolutely nothing to Him.  These new found fans could turn on Him at the drop of a denarius.  A denarius is a Roman coin.    


The Greek word "pisteuo" is translated as "entrust" in this passage.  "Pisteuo" is translated as "to believe, to have faith, to trust, and other such related words in the New Testament.  In this context "pisteuo" means "to give one's self to another in a trusting and meaningful relationship".  It's clear from this passage that Jesus did not give His heart and soul completely to everyone who crossed His path as some of us might have thought.  Jesus did love those in the crowd by giving up His human life on the cross, but refused to enter into a meaningful relationship with them.  There was no way that He'd bare His heart and soul to those He couldn't trust.  Before He'd even consider doing such a thing they'd have to experience the redemption and reconciliation based on the forgiveness of sins that He was about to provide for them.    


Jesus understood the meaning of Proverbs 4:23.  The NIV reads; "Above all things, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."  The KJV reads; "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."  The point of this proverb is simple.  Whoever or whatever is important and valuable in your life is a matter of the heart.  Maybe it's your wife, your husband, your children, your career, your church, or, maybe it's your car.  The fact of the matter is that whoever or whatever is important or valuable; you feel its impact in your heart.  Superficial things don't tug at your heart's emotions as these meaningful things do.  That's why the proverb encourages us to guard our hearts.  In other words, keep a close watch on your heart.  Be careful who or what you let into it.  Be careful whom or what you expose it.  Not everyone will care for your heart as you do.          


Even though Jesus loved all men as He entered Jerusalem that day, He would not bare his heart and soul to just anyone.  He knew man could rip His heart into a thousand pieces if given the chance.  The only ones Jesus gave His heart and soul completely to in a meaningful relationship were those His Father gave him.  Even then His heart was pierced with pain at times.    


There's something for us to learn here.  We are to love those who cross our path, but that doesn't mean we hand our hearts and souls over to every Tom, Dick, Mary, or Sue who crosses our path.  Like Jesus, we entrust ourselves in a meaningful relationship to only those whom our heavenly Father has joined us.  Even then we'll feel some pain at times.   


Most doctors will tell you that they can't afford to allow the daily grind of sickness they see in their patients to penetrate their hearts.  If they did, depression would prevent them from effectively helping those in need.  As Christians we can't afford to allow sinful humanity to rip open our hearts and turn them into a mangled mess.   If we do, we can't effectively help those in need of a Saviour.


Those in the crowd who went crazy over Jesus were caught up in the excitement of miracles.  They weren't interested in having a meaningful relationship with Jesus.  For this reason Jesus guarded His heart.  He refused to "entrust" Himself to them.  If this was so with Jesus, the Son of the Almighty God, it's should definitely be so with us.

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