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Part 6: Jesus Cleanses the Temple (2:13-25)
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We are now moving into Jesus’ first public Passover. What is the importance of the Passover? To answer this question we must go all the way back to the book of Exodus. Specifically we want to turn to Exodus chapter 12. In this chapter we have what the Passover is laid out in clear language. The Passover was when the Lord passed over Egypt killing every first born man or animal except those of the people who had put the blood of a pure lamb on their door frame. (As we will see later Christ is our Passover Lamb.) God later gave commands about this being a covenant between Israel and Himself, and the lamb was sacrificed to God to fulfill this covenant and cover the sins of the people for that year.
Passover has a special meaning for us because Jesus was the final Passover Lamb. The Passover Lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people for one year. Jesus as the Passover Lamb, gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin for all time. And so because of Jesus’ sacrifice during the judgment God will Passover our sin and read from the book of life. This is the importance of Passover to us as believers. During Passover Jesus goes to the temple and finds that the Jews have turned the sacred things into a form of business. This brings out His wrath. Why did this make Him so angry?
This made Him angry because these people were bringing sin into the Holy Temple (known as the House of the Lord). They were exchanging money (at a price) and selling animals (probably for more than they were worth). One thing to note here is that Jesus didn’t just fly off the handle, but instead sat down and methodically thought the whole thing out. We know this because in verse 15 it tells us that, “He made for Himself a whip of cords”. This is a task that He would have just done in a few moments but would take some time (maybe as much as a whole day). That means Jesus was thinking it out before hand, then, when He was done is when He “drove them all out of the Temple, along with their animals.” He throws over the tables scattering coins everywhere. Then He delivers the line that exclaims the heart of the issue: “Stop making My Father’s house a place of business!”
The next interchange is the first of many that takes place between Jesus and the Jews. The Jews (as recorded several times in the Old Testament; one specific time is Deuteronomy 9:6) were (and are) a stubborn bunch. They considered themselves right and everyone else wrong. This caused them to argue with everyone, even themselves. This is not atypical for the Jewish people.
They come to Him and demand what His authority for cleansing the temple is. Jesus’ answer is cryptic at first glance. He tells them that if they “destroy this temple,” He would rebuild it in three days. For the meaning of this statement and the following one by the author (v. 21) we must look at three passages. Let’s start systematically by looking at the Old Testament first. The first two passages are 2 Samuel 7:1-17 and its parallel passage of 1 Chronicles 17:1-15. This is where God makes His covenant with David (known as the Davidic Covenant). In these two passages (which some believe to be a Messianic Prophecy) God promises David an heir who will build God a house and whose throne would last forever. You’ll notice that the language of where this house and throne will be is non-specific.
In the time before Jesus there had already been two candidates to fill this position. These two were Solomon – who built the first temple – and Zerubbabel – who built the second temple. Both of these men were direct descendents of David in the Kingly Line. Solomon in fact was his heir who took the throne before he died. Neither of these men, however, had a throne established forever, and both of their temples were destroyed (Solomon’s Temple in 587 BC and Zerubbabel’s Temple in 70 AD). These two men had both been viewed as a completion of this promise until it was seen that they weren’t.
Now what does Jesus say about the place of worship? We find His words in chapter 4 of John. In verse 23 He tells the Samaritan Woman that a time was coming – and had come already – when people would worship God in their spirits. These words turn the believer into the house of God! This fulfills the words that God told David but in a completely different way than Solomon or any other heir of David ever could. This establishes a house for God that all human kind could worship in. So this must be what Jesus is talking about here. Verses 21 and 22 help clarify that really Jesus is saying kill me and I’ll be back in three days.
Finally at the end of this chapter we come to a conclusion about this Passover and one more point to show us Jesus’ deity. We have here a statement that points to Jesus being completely understanding of human nature. We know from other scripture that man only looks at the outward appearance but God knows the heart. In this section many see His miracles and believe in Him, but He is still keeping His own council. It says that, “He knew what was in man’s hearts and minds.” Most translations put it this way: “He knew what was in man.” This is a statement to say what I paraphrased it as. If it was the more literal meaning then it really has no meaning or purpose. But He knew what was in our hearts and minds.
He knows what is in our hearts and minds still He loved enough to come to Earth and die for us. Can you think of anyone who loves more? I can’t.