WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 28
John 2: 13-22
Meeting God in the Temple – in the holy of holies, or in the temple courts accessible to everybody?
|13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
|13 John mentions four or five passovers.
13 This is the beginning of a section on John (up to John 4:54) which recounts Jesus’ ministry to Jerusalem, Judea, and to Samaria and Gentiles. There are two major encounters to come, one with Nicodemus who represented the Jerusalem religious elite, and a second, very different in nature, with the Samaritan woman, representing the Samaritan religion. This temple incident is like a prologue.
|14 In the temple courts He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
|14 This was in the temple courts, or court of the Gentiles, the area where non-Jews were admitted to pray in the “house of prayer for all nations” Isaiah 56:7.
|15 So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
|15 The three synoptic (narrative) gospels record a second, later, clearing of the temple courts by Jesus at the Jewish Passover, just before the Crucifixion.
|16 To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a market!”
17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.”
|16-17 This is a prophetic action by Jesus, a little drama depicting what will happen to the Jewish religious leaders who had allowed commerce to overtake worship and become an obstacle to people, especially the non-Jewish ‘God-fearers’, for whom this was the part of the temple courts where they could come and pray. See Psalm 69:9, quoted in part above.
18 The Jews then responded to Him, “What sign can you show us to prove Your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
18-19 Jesus implies that He will have a part in raising Himself from the dead. Elsewhere He says “I am the Resurrection and the Life”, John 11:25. All rather confusing until we step back and recognise that Jesus is in the Father, John 14:10-11, and the Father i.e. the Holy Spirit is in Him, John 10:38 – The Trinity is one, and acts as one. Lacking the insight of faith, they are simply seeing the Jesus who had emptied Himself of the divine nature to be born as man, and standing before them as the Galilean rabbi. As is so often the challenge for us, the close up picture is not the whole picture.
For further study, other verses tell us that the Father and the Holy Spirit were involved in the Resurrection: Acts 2:24, Romans 6:4, 1 Cor. 6:14, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:20, and also Romans 1:4, 8:11
|20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”
20 Or alternative translation, “this temple was built 46 years ago”. Herod the Great had constructed the temple proper, but the hieron, temple courts, were still unfinished.
20 No one understood Jesus’ reply at the time. This sheds lights on the taunts made three years later at the trial and crucifixion, Matthew 26:62, Matt. 27:40.
|21 But the temple He had spoken of was His body.
|21 A temple is a place where God dwells. This was a key to Israel’s worship, first around the tabernacle, and then in more permanent temples built by Solomon, then on returning from exile Zerubbabel, and finally Herod the Great. Now all that changes, because Jesus, the new temple, renders all other obsolete, by manifesting God the Father, John 1:14, 18. The final and ultimate once-for-all-time sacrifice took place in this “temple”, His body, which was “destroyed” when He was put to death, but Jesus was “raised” from the dead “in three days”.
|22 After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
The idea that God’s dwelling place was in the Jerusalem Temple was looking old-fashioned as soon as Jesus entered the courts. The church is not a building – church building or temple structure.
At the same time, the temple had been built and rebuilt, originally by Jesus’ ancestor Solomon, as a place set apart to God – a holy place – and a centre of worship. Now it was full of sheep and cattle – and bankers. So Jesus was more than entitled to say He wanted His house of prayer back.
This is a picture of how God’s clear intentions can get taken over by the purposes of man, and how God feels about that. Medieval churches in the UK, especially in the country, were commonly used as community meeting places and markets, especially if there were no other market hall. The wider use of the building is not the point.
What is at issue here is whether the church of God, as the people of God, are carrying out His mission, rooted in worship that comes from the faith that can only grow from close personal relationship – or whether they have degenerated into self-serving institutions.
The reformation, revivals and renewals of every century since the Middle Ages suggest that the Holy Spirit is always at work, shaking what can be shaken, and bringing the mission of God to the fore. The temple that Jesus entered was scarcely complete architecturally before it was demolished and much of Jerusalem with it, by which time the church was growing in Asia, Greece, Italy and beyond. If we don’t catch what God is doing now and change course to meet Him in it, we too will become a barrier of dead stones.
For reflection and discussion
Tabernacle, temple building and then Jesus Himself… where is the temple where God resides now?
How does our worship practice reflect this, or perhaps could reflect this better?