Jesus Cleanses the Temple Elim Jan 21 2018
John 2:13-25& Psalm 127:1-2
This story of the cleansing of the Temple occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in John’s Gospel. In the other gospels it occurs at the end of His ministry, immediately before Holy Week and the cross.
We cannot assume this is a mistake on the part of the writers of Scripture. It is intentional.
- It might be because the writer of John’s Gospel is putting it there for the sake of developing a specific theme. Not all Bible writers are concerned with the chronological accuracy that we struggle with in our western culture.
- It might well be there because Jesus bookended His ministry with this event.
It’s place in John’s Gospel is significant because it helps to set the theme and style of Jesus’ ministry. We are in the season of Epiphany — the REVEALING, the MANIFESTATION of Jesus as God’s Son, our Savior. Last week was the turning of water into wine. The first miracle that showed Jesus’ power. And His disciples began to believe in Him!
Here, this story that follows immediately on the heals of that very first miracle shows that Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior—the Savior of the world—is very concerned about people’s access to God. Note it takes place after the Passover. The first Passover attends as He enters these days of His ministry leading to the cross. Remember that John the Baptizer has pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. In other words, John points to Jesus as the genuine Passover Lamb that all the others merely hinted at and pointed to. Jesus is the Promised One, the fulfillment of all God’s promises to us for salvation and redemption.
The purpose of the Temple, from the days of Moses and Aaron when God instructed them in how to build the Tent of the Presence, i.e. the Tabernacle that accompanied the people of Israel through the wilderness into the Promised Land—the purpose of that Temple was to help sinful people to have safe access to a holy and righteous God.
Sacrifices were always required.
Hebrews 9:22 says, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
This is a reference to the Old Testament passage Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement.”
Sacrificial animals and birds were killed and their blood applied to the people.
As people traveled long distances to come and worship God, to offer their sacrifices at the Temple they had to either bring their sacrifices with them, or purchase them in Jerusalem. It was certainly more convenient and realistic to bring money and purchase their sacrificial animals and birds once they reached Jerusalem. Providing these animals and birds was actually a convenient service for these Jewish worshippers who traveled long distances.
The problem arose when human greed enters the picture! Instead of helping these worshippers with providing sacrificial animals, this became a money making matter! Opportunistic greed took over. Unfettered capitalism crunched the spirits of the worshippers. I
Instead of the Temple being a place of prayer for people to come to God and find help and solace, it was a mad house of shouting and bartering as money changers, marketers with their animals and would be worshippers haggled over prices. And it became the accepted, traditional way. It became the norm. Go to the Temple to worship, expect to haggle and barter for the best deal. Worship and drawing close to God in reverence and humble prayer were sidelined and lost in the din.
Is it any wonder that Jesus lost it?! Such abuse steamed Him! And He brazenly and boldly confronts it.
The purpose of the Church then and now is for the sake of the world. For the sake of helping people to discover and know God and to find God’s grace and acceptance and forgiveness. In the Old Testament all the Temple rites and rituals pointed to Jesus. The Temple in which Jesus stood and confronted all that greed and hypocrisy pointed to Jesus. He had come into our world to bring God close to us. To bring us hope and freedom and forgiveness through HIS blood.
So when the Jewish leaders ask Him for proof of His authority to correct what they themselves knew was wrong and offensive, He points to Himself and His purpose for coming—the cross upon which He would die, and His triumph and victory over sin and the grave through His resurrection.
Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up! He was speaking of Himself as the Temple. Because He is our safe access to God. In Jesus God has come to us. In Jesus God has come to take away our brokenness, our offenses, our evil, our greed and selfishness, our sin!
The Jewish leaders miss the point. We often do too! They think He is talking about their pride and joy—the physical building that has been in the process of being remodeled for 46 years. They completely miss that God Himself, in Christ Jesus is standing in their midst. That the sacrifice that takes away all the sin of all the world for all people, past, present and future was right there in front of them.
No wonder this is included at the outset of Jesus’ ministry. No wonder it occurs once again at the very conclusion of Jesus’ ministry. This story points very firmly and clearly to the cross and God’s plan of salvation for us through Jesus.
It also reminds us that Jesus is jealously concerned that all people have access to God through the cross. We, as Christians, as followers of Christ, are called to be Christlike and to work for the common good of all. We, of all people, should be the most open and welcoming for everyone. We of all people should show that God accepts all regardless of race, color, sexual orientation, and even religious affiliation. The cross of Christ puts us all in the same category. God-in-Christ has made us free. May He also make us bold and loving and like Jesus in how we think and speak and live.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.