First Passover – Cleansing The Temple
Jesus, His family, and His disciples remained in Capernaum a few days, and then He went to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. Each Jewish man was required to attend three annual feasts at the Holy City:
The feasts mentioned in the Gospel of John are
Though He deliberately violated the man-made religious traditions of the Pharisees, our Lord obeyed the statutes of the Law and was faithful to uphold the Law. In His life and death, He fulfilled the Law, so that, believers today are not burdened by that “yoke of bondage” (Acts 15:10).
The time was near to celebrate the Passover, the festival commemorating when God rescued His children from slavery in Egypt, so Jesus went to Jerusalem for the celebration.
The Voice (VOICE)
The Jewish feast of Passover commemorated the night that the Lord delivered the Israelites from Egypt by slaying all the firstborn of the Egyptians but passing over the Israelites’ firstborn (Exodus 12:23). The feast began on the fourteenth day and lasted until the twenty-first day of the first month, Abib (This first month of the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar usually occurs within the months of March and April). Every male in Israel had to be present at the feast (Exodus 23:14-17 and Deuteronomy 16:16).
The feast began with a “holy convocation,” or Sabbath, on the fourteenth day of the month Abib, during which no work could be done. At evening on that day, every household slew their Passover lamb, roasted it, and ate it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs reminiscent of the first Passover (Leviticus 23:5-8). This was followed by seven days when no leaven could be found in any of their dwellings or used in any bread (Exodus 12:18-20). Therefore, this feast was also called the feast of unleavened bread.
The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, which is celebrated by the church today, is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament Passover. The cup and the bread that Jesus used to institute this supper were both a part of the last Passover meal that Jesus kept before His crucifixion. The cup was His blood shed for us, and the bread was His body broken for us (Luke 22:19-20). 1 Corinthians 5:7 says,
“For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.”
Jesus is the Passover Lamb sacrificed for us, so that when the Father sees His blood applied to our lives, His judgment will pass over us (Exodus 12:23).
Upon arriving, He entered the temple to worship. But the porches and colonnades were filled with merchants selling sacrificial animals (such as doves, oxen, and sheep) and exchanging money. Jesus fashioned a whip of cords and used it with skill driving out animals; He scattered the money and overturned the tables, emptying profiteers from the house of God. There were dove merchants still standing around, and Jesus reprimanded them.
Jesus:What are you still doing here? Get all your stuff, and haul it out of here! Stop making My Father’s house a place for your own profit!
The Voice (VOICE)
Jesus revealed His zeal for God first of all by cleansing the temple. The priests had established a lucrative business of exchanging foreign money for Jewish currency, and also selling the animals needed for the sacrifices. No doubt, this “religious market” began as a convenience for the Jews who came long distances to worship in the temple; but in due time the “convenience” became a business, not a ministry. The tragedy is that this business was carried on in the court of the Gentiles in the temple, the place where the Jews should have been meeting the Gentiles and telling them about the one true God. Any Gentile searching for truth would not likely find it among the religious merchants in the temple.
Our Lord suddenly appeared in the temple and cleaned house! He was careful not to destroy anyone’s property (He did not release the doves, for example); but He made it clear that He was in command. The temple was His Father’s house, and He would not have the religious leaders pollute it with their moneymaking enterprises.
Those who think anger is always wrong are wrong. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Proverbs 8:13). Those who are not angry at evil empower evil.
These merchants were selling these animals for use in sacrifice at the temple. Therefore, they were doing a good thing in the wrong place and in the wrong manner. The end does not justify the means. There is a right and wrong way and time for doing things.
The condition of the temple was a vivid indication of the spiritual condition of the nation. Their religion was a dull routine, presided over by worldly-minded men whose main desire was to exercise authority and get rich. Not only had the wine run out at the wedding feast but also the glory had departed from the temple.
And His disciples remembered that it is written [in the Holy Scriptures], Zeal (the fervor of love) for Your house will eat Me up. [I will be consumed with jealousy for the honor of Your house.]
John 2:17 (AMP)
When they saw His courageous zeal, the disciples remembered Psalm 69:9,
“Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.”
There was still a godly remnant in Israel who loved God and revered His temple (Luke 1:5-22; 2:25-38), but most religious leaders were false shepherds who exploited the people. When Jesus cleansed the temple, He “declared war” on the hypocritical religious leaders (Matt. 23), and this ultimately led to His death. Indeed, His zeal for God’s house did eat Him up!
Some of the Jews cried out to Him in unison.
Jews: Who gave You the right to shut us down? If it is God, then show us a sign.
The Voice (VOICE)
This was a bold act on Jesus’ part, which placed Him in a position of authority. The Jews are basically saying,
“Who gave you the authority to act like this?”
It was logical for the religious leaders to ask Him to show the source of His authority. After all, they were the guardians of the Jewish faith, and they had a right to test any new prophet who appeared.
Who was Jesus to regulate what went on in the temple?
The truth is that He was God and the One who they were supposed to be worshiping. He had every right to correct their error.
Jesus: You want a sign? Here it is. Destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in 3 days.
The Voice (VOICE)
Jesus had to have known that the Jews would not correctly understand this parable, yet He said it anyway. “The Jews require a sign” (1 Cor. 1:22). Often, during His ministry, the leaders asked Jesus to give them a sign; and He refused to do so, except for the sign of Jonah (Matt. 12:39). The “sign of Jonah” is death, burial, and resurrection.
Jews: Three days? This temple took more than 46 years to complete. You think You can replicate that feat in 3 days?
The true temple was His body. His disciples remembered this bold prediction after He was resurrected. Because of this knowledge, their faith in the Hebrew Scriptures and in Jesus’ teachings grew.
The Voice (VOICE)
Jesus used the image of the temple to convey this truth.
“Destroy this temple [My body], and in three days I will raise it up”.
Being spiritually blind, those who heard misunderstood what He was saying. Throughout the Gospel of John, you will find people misunderstanding spiritual truth and interpreting in material or physical terms (John 3:4; 4:11; 6:52). Herod’s temple was started in 20 b.c. and not completed until a.d. 64.
How could one man “raise it up” in three days?
This statement was, of course, a prediction of His own death and resurrection; and His disciples remembered it after He was raised from the dead. But His enemies also remembered it and used it at His trial (Matt. 26:59-61); and some of the people mocked Him with it when He was dying on the cross (Matt. 27:40).
In writing this Gospel, John included a number of vivid pictures of the death of the Savior.
- The first is the slaying of the Lamb in John 1:29, indicating that His death would be that of a substitute for sinners.
- The destroying of the temple is the second picture (John 2:19), suggesting a violent death that would end in victorious resurrection.
- The third picture is that of the serpent lifted up (John 3:14), a reference to Numbers 21:5-9.
The Savior would be made sin for us (1 Peter 2:24). His death would be voluntary (John 10:11-18): the Shepherd would lay down His life for the sheep. Finally, the planting of the seed (John 12:20-25) teaches that His death would produce fruit to the glory of God. His death and burial would look like failure, but in the end, God would bring victory.
The temple was an important element of the Jewish faith, for in it God was supposed to dwell. All of the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Jewish religion centered in the temple.
When Jesus suggested that their precious building would be destroyed, their angry reaction was predictable. After all, if His body is the temple, then the Jewish temple would be needed no more. In this cryptic statement, our Lord actually predicted the end of the Jewish religious system.
But that was one of the purposes John had in mind when he wrote his Gospel: the legal system has ended, and “grace and truth” have come through Jesus Christ. He is the new sacrifice (John 1:29) and the new temple (John 2:19). John will tell us later, that the new worship will depend on inward integrity, not outward geography (John 4:19-24).