“Who is Jesus?” John 2:13-25

The account recorded by John in this text gives us a picture of Jesus that just does not fit with the Jesus who loves children, teaches on the hillsides, and heals the sick.  Slow down to accurately read the verbs and nouns, and the narrative shows Jesus making a scourge and driving them, the sellers (people), out of the temple.  He pours out the coins and upsets the tables of the money changers.  He says to the sellers, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” (2:16) The disciples remember the scriptures of Psalm 69, “Zeal for Your house will consume Me.” (9)

Psalm 69 opens with a desperate plea for God’s mercy.  Drowning from troubles but parched from crying, reproached and alienated, desiring comfort but receiving gall and vinegar, the Psalmist calls to a God of lovingkindness – the antithesis of the outer oppression.  “You who seek God, let your heart revive” (32). Of note to this text in John, he acknowledges that God is better pleased with praise and thanksgiving than with oxen or bulls.  The LORD hears the needy.  Heaven and earth will praise Him. “For God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah, that they may dwell there and possess it.  The descendants of His servants will inherit it, and those who love His name will dwell in it.” (35-36)

Do you think Jesus was zealously scourging only the business aspect of selling sacrificial animals and holy money?  The recent bankruptcy news from the Crystal Cathedral is so very easy to pull up at this point as exhibit A.  Many churches are struggling with the business end of their budgets at this time of the year.  We rightly ask if any of our church programs are more mercantile than meeting place. But, was this really what Jesus was purging?  Is Jesus cleaning out only the physical setting of a place of worship?   Should we not also examine our own hearts as the Father’s house?

Later in the Gospel of John, Jesus will teach, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (14:23).  Paul writes to the Romans, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:8-9).  The Ephesians are supported by Paul’s prayers as those “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:15-17).

This section of text concludes with: “But Jesus, on his part, was not entrusting Himself to them for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (24-25) Jesus claims authority for His actions at the Temple based on His relationship to the Father.  His zeal was for the dwelling place of the LORD – human hearts He knew to be deceitful, self-righteous,  and full of sin.  The scourge cleared out the sellers and animals – the scourge stripped His back and He sacrificed His life.  Hearts that believe in Him are made ready for habitation.  We examine ourselves, but as the Psalmist concluded, God saves and builds.  This is what Jesus has done for me.

Who is Jesus?  The Cleanser of the Temple!

A personal note:  I got stuck on this section.  Similar accounts are recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke but they do differ in the possible timing and other details.  The accounts in the synoptic gospels occur in the week before the cross, and include prophesies of Christ’s second coming and the end of the age.  Commentators acknowledge the differences and offer various reasons for them.

The Apostle John is clear about his purpose in writing: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31)  There may have been two incidents at the Temple; one at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry; one at the end.  John seems to be pointing to an emphasis on Jesus’ authority to overturn and transform the way God will dwell with His people.

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