From Capernaum, Jesus travels to Jerusalem for the Passover feast in accordance with the law (cf. Deut 16:16). He drives out the merchants and the money-changers in the temple, and His actions prompt the Jews to ask Him for a sign. The synoptic accounts inform us that this incident took place at the end of Jesus’ ministry, upon His final entry into Jerusalem. But the Gospel according to John presents this event early on in the book probably because the significance of the event fits well with the themes that the Gospel is developing at this point (unless the Gospel according to John and the synoptic Gospels record two distinct but similar events).
Did You Know...?
1. The Passover (2:13) was a major Jewish feast commemorating God’s deliverance from Egypt (cf. Ex 12).
2. Temple (2:14, 19): The current passage uses two different Greek words, both of which the NKJV translates as “temple.” The word in verse 14 typically denotes the courts surrounding the temple. This was where Jesus found the merchants and money changers conducting business. In verse 19, however, where Jesus says, “Destroy this temple,” He uses another word, referring to the temple building proper.
3. Those who sold oxen and sheep and doves (2:14) rendered a service to those who traveled to the Passover from afar, allowing them to buy the sacrificial animals on site rather than having to carry them for long distances. [ref]
4. Money changers (2:14) in the temple sat in the court of the Gentiles (or in its porch) and converted foreign currency into the coins allowed in the temple (Roman coins had Caesar’s image). Every Israelite that reached the age of 20 had to pay a half shekel (unit of money) into the Temple treasury (Ex 30:13, 14). The money changers usually assessed a fixed charge for their services.
5. This temple” (2:20) was the second temple, built in the sixth century B.C. (Ezra chaps. 1, 3; 5–6; Hag chaps. 1–2; Zech 6:9–15). King Herod the Great began renovations around 20 B.C., and the resulting structure was well-known for its magnificence.
In what ways does this story stand in contrast with the previous story of turning water into wine?Hide Answer
1. The previous event was at a wedding in a common local community. The current event took place at the temple, the national religious center, at the time of the feast, when pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem. 2. In the previous story, Jesus acted quietly behind the scene. In Jerusalem, however, he openly caused a great commotion and disturbed the sentiments of the Jews. 3. The outcome of the sign in Cana was that the disciples put their faith in Jesus. Jesus’ actions at the temple, on the other hand, led many people to believe in His name. But the Gospel also gives a further comment that Jesus did not commit Himself to them.
According to Jesus, what wrong had the merchants and money changers committed?
Explain why their conduct was objectionable.Hide Answer
While the merchants and money changers seemed to be offering the worshippers a valuable service, they were not exactly interested in doing a charitable deed because their service was not free of charge. They used the worship of God as a means for profit, and they even did this on temple grounds (cf.
1 Tim 6:5).
In what ways could a person possibly turn God’s house into a house of merchandise today?
Selling animals and exchanging money was supposed to aid in the worship of God. Think of a present-day scenario or personal experience where a good intention or a seemingly acceptable behavior could turn into something offensive in God’s eyes.
Why is it so important for the house of God to be free of all personal gains and selfish motives?
Jesus called the house of God “My Father’s house.” Why is this significant?Hide Answer
“My Father” (as opposed to “our Father”) implied that Jesus stood in a unique relationship with the Father. He was the “only begotten” of the Father, the Son of God who had become flesh to declare the Father. This claim became a sticking point for the Jews because it was essentially a claim to being divine (Jn 5:18). By calling God’s house “My Father’s house,” Jesus was speaking as God, taking the defilement of the temple personally. Thus He acted on God’s behalf, taking charge to ensure the sanctity of God’s dwelling. Jesus’ actions could be viewed as a fulfillment of passages such as Zechariah 14:21 and Malachi 3:1 (in addition to Ps 69:9), where the Scriptures prophesied that the Lord Himself would ensure the purity of His own house.
What could be the meaning behind the prophecy that Jesus’ zeal would “eat Him up”?Hide Answer
The more obvious meaning is that Jesus’ zeal was burning within Him, which was made manifest in His vehement acts of driving out all the business activities. However, verse 22 indicates that the Scripture’s prophecy became clear after Jesus’ death and resurrection. With that in mind, the words “eat Me up” may have had a deeper reference to His death.
How can we imitate Jesus’ zeal for the house of God?
If we consider that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (
1 Cor 6:19), how does the story of the cleansing of the temple apply to us?
Why did the Jews ask Jesus for a sign?Hide Answer
The demand for a sign was a demand for Jesus’ source of authority. Because Jesus called the temple His Father’s house and took it upon Himself to remove all the business activities from the temple, the Jews wanted to see a sign, i.e., something miraculous to authenticate that He was indeed who He claimed to be.
Consider also the similar account in Mt 12:38–40. How is what Jesus predicted a sign?
Jesus used a language which the Jews could not understand. Why did He speak of His body as the temple?Hide Answer
1. Jesus is God become flesh, through whom we may behold God’s glory and receive His grace and truth (Jn 1:14). He is the bodily presence of God (Jn 1:51; Col 2:9) and thus the new temple. 2. The limited access to God by way of the earthly sanctuary prefigured the offering of Jesus’ body and blood, through which we now may enter the Holiest (Heb 10:19, 20). It was therefore appropriate for the Lord to speak of His body as the temple.
What does it mean to you personally that Jesus’ body is the temple of God?
What does verse 22 teach us about faith?Hide Answer
The works of Jesus, including His signs, lead to faith in Him (Jn 2:11), and the ultimate sign is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This personal faith in the Lord Jesus is founded on what is spoken by the Scriptures and by the Lord Himself, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 14:26). Therefore, it is important to know the Scriptures and the words of the Lord Jesus, and thereby build up our faith in the Lord (cf. Jn 5:39, 46, 47).
What is the sharp contrast presented here?Hide Answer
“Commit” in verse 24 is the same word as “believe” in verse 23. While many people in Jerusalem believed in Jesus’ name, Jesus was not entrusting Himself to them.
How do you explain Jesus’ response to the people’s faith?Hide Answer
Jesus did not entrust Himself to them in the sense that He did not expect a lasting relationship with them. He also did not need the testimony of human beings to prove who He was (cf. Jn 5:32, 34). These people believed in His name while they saw the many signs which He did. But faith based on seeing signs alone cannot endure. Many who followed Jesus because of the signs Jesus had performed eventually forsook Him when they could not accept Jesus’ words (Jn 6:66).
What does this say about our faith in the Lord Jesus?Hide Answer
Our faith must not remain on the level of believing only when we experience something miraculous. Neither should our faith depend on receiving tangible things such as possessions, health, and deliverance from trouble. True faith needs to go on from witnessing signs to acceptance of the Lord’s words and His identity as the Christ, the Son of God (cf. Jn 6:68, 69).
How is Jesus’ omniscience sobering as well as comforting for us?