Christ’s First Cleansing of the Temple
Text: John 2:12-21
Darkness of the spiritual climate of Jesus’ day cannot be overstated. The Jewish religion was literally leading men to Hell. The Jewish religion was dead, empty, and had absolutely no comfort for sinners.
That is proved by the blindness of the religious leaders in John 1, and pictured by the miracle of turning water into wine. That first miracle typified the emptiness and disappointment of the Jewish religion, and the fulfillment of God’s salvation in and through His Son Jesus Christ, who would shed His blood as the wine to satisfy the need of sinners.
And let me underline, the performance of miracles was not merely to show His power. It wasn’t just to heal people for the sake of it. That’s what the charismatic view so often is. It wasn’t even to produce converts. Miracles were to
i) to prove He was sent by the Father “the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” (Jn 5:36)
ii) to manifest His redemptive glory (Jn 2:11).
Jn 2:13; 6:4 “the Jews passover” & “passover of the Jews” – not the Lord’s passover. But this is also possible in the NT Church, clearly seen in the Laodicean church. So let us not get too puffed up.
This event of the cleansing of the temple is thought by some to have only occurred once at the end of Jesus’ ministry, and that John merely refers to it here because he is speaking in themes rather than chronologically. But I agree with most of the reliable opinions that this was an earlier cleansing at the start of His ministry, that was followed by another at the end of His ministry.
Christ had been in the temple many times before, but on this occasion He comes in as one having authority over it..
I. HIS DISCOVERY
i) The Reason – v14
Why livestock and moneychangers in the Temple? The livestock was there at Passover so the people didn’t have to bring provision for the feast with them.
The moneychangers provided a service for the Temple authorities to gather to Temple taxes, and since there were some impure currencies and likely because on the Roman coin would be the head of Caesar, which wouldn’t have been acceptable in the temple. They requested certain coinage for the temple tax, and the money changers a commission.
But Jesus has no issue with the enterprise going on. It’s where it’s going on. They had turned the Court of the Gentiles, the place of prayer into a marketplace.
ii) The Reaction – v15
So Jesus makes a whip for the animals and clears the place out. Can you imagine the scene? Total chaos. Usually Christ dealt with things with the spoken word, but here when He faces the corruptions in the Temple, it arouses His righteous anger.
If ever you needed proof of the hatred Christ has for falsehood, it is evidently on display here. And I’ll tell you beloved, the greatest enemy to Canada is not Islam, or socialism, the greatest enemy to Canada is apostate Christianity. When the church corrupts the worship of God. The wrath of God is much more fearful than any false religion and its threats.
Christ displays His hatred for sin, but also His love for God. And both are important, otherwise we get unbalanced.
Note – Christ has no time for an impure temple! That applies to the church as a corporate body and as individuals. Every child of God should observe Christ’s intolerance for corruption in the temple and it should put fear into our hearts and force us to rid our temples of all corruption!
iii) The Request – v16
Jesus had no time for their hypocrisy. Covering up their love of money with a cloak of religiosity. Godliness as a covering for gain. Jesus saw their love of money Matt 23:25; Lk 16:13-14. The RCC has been at this for years. But Protestantism has it to, and we love to have it so.
Oh yes, we’ll take an arrogant, self-appointed rascal like Mark Driscoll, make an idol out of him so that he gets rich using church money to game the New York Times Bestseller list, and then when he’s destroyed his church and battered the flock, he’ll disappear for 6 months before returning unrepentantly to continue with his preaching engagements.
Jesus condescended to deliver us from the damning results of the love of money.
II. HIS DISCIPLES – v17
Upon doing that the disciples think of a Psalm of David, Psalm 69 where David talks about becoming a reproach among his family because of his zeal for truth.
Notice v12 – it’s quite possible that His family were with Him during this occasion, and that they were horrified by His behaviour, which is why the disciples think of Psalm 69.
What this passage shows us is that God is particular about what goes on in the places where His people meet for worship. You can’t worship Him or pray with sheep bleating in the background. And there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in so-called places of worship that has nothing to do with worship. There are churches now where people get up mid-worship and go to grab a cup of coffee!
III. HIS DECLARATION
i) Was Provoked – v18
They want a sign for why He should be doing these things? “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” Matt 12:38-39
They were avoiding the issue being raised by Jesus (their greed and adultery against God). And people do this all the time. They try to avoid what they know to be true by pretending that they don’t get the truth.
ii) Was Prophetic – v19
The words of Jesus show layered truths. We know He is referring to their crucifixion of Him. v21 makes that clear. But if also seems as if Jesus is saying, your current action is destroying this temple, and so it would in AD70.
But, the same hard-heartedness toward the temple and the true worship of God was the very reason why they were going to treat Jesus with such disdain and hatred. But this also applies to His resurrection. He is going to raise His body as a temple, but in doing so He is also going to raise all the functionality of the physical temple in Himself. All that went on in that temple would now be fulfilled in Him.
This statement really hooked into the Jews, and they even misquote it when he is brought before the Jewish court: “And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” Matt 26:61
“And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself.” Matt 27:39-40
Note – there’s a lot of people watching Israel hoping for the rebuilding of the Temple. Now it may happen, but it will be an apostate temple that means nothing to God. These people forget that the Temple has already been rebuilt, when Jesus rose again from the dead. He is the tabernacle as the prologue said in 1:14.
Close – look at v22 “they believed”. Just like the sign of changing the water into wine resulted in v11. And John is standing by His purpose then, telling us of events that lead men to believe. The question is, are you ready to believe?
Are you as stubborn hearted as these Jews? Perhaps it’s a love for money that you’re trying to hide from God? If Christ in the days of His flesh can step into the temple and shows His anger in an irresistible fashion, what’s it going to be like when He returns?
My friend, get yourself to Christ with haste! There is no time for delay.