The Temple! – John 2:13-25
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 26, 2014
I have heard sermons where the speaker equates today’s church as the new temple of God, however, we no longer continually offer sacrifices of live animals, we do not burn incense to represent the prayers of the people to God, and we do not wash our hands and feet before coming into worship nor do we bow down before the altar of God. And of course nothing separates us from the presence of God: Neither curtain, priest, nor mercy seat can keep us from his presence! While some of the things we do remind us of the temple or tabernacle of God, the church is radically different from the temple.
The Temple was an important part of the Jewish worship of God. It represented the presence of God with his people and a place where folks could come to pray, praise, and sacrifice to God. Now it was Passover which was kept on the fourteenth day of Nisan, in commemoration of the Lord’s passing over any home that had its doorposts painted with the blood of a lamb, when he killed the firstborn of every household in Egypt. Jesus more than likely had gone to Jerusalem before and we know he was there when he was eleven teaching in the Temple courts. But now the Temple is being misused and desecrated by his own people. How would Jesus respond as he walked through the Temple?
The event we are about to study in the life of Jesus had such a tremendous impact on the disciples that it is one of the few circumstances of Jesus’ ministry that is mentioned in all four Gospels. I believe it is because of how Jesus responds and how others viewed what he did there. We discover…
I. Jesus shows us his passion for the temple! (Vv. 13-17)
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
1. We learn that “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” Direction in the New Testament has to do with elevation and not direction such as north or south. So when “Jesus went up to Jerusalem” it means he traveled in elevation up toward Jerusalem which was where the Temple was built on Mt. Zion. John records what comes next early in Jesus’ ministry while the other Gospels record it happening toward the end of his ministry. Some think there could be two occasions where Jesus cleansed the Temple; however, it could also simply be the process of writing that folks in Jesus’ day used. They did not care so much when something actually occurred and were more concerned about sharing that it did indeed occurred. Either way, we find Jesus in Jerusalem at the Temple during Passover and it was there “In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.” Jesus found this distressing. The place that was to be considered the most holy place on earth was being used to store and sell animals and for the exchange of differing currencies into Temple coins! All sacrifices had to be bought with Temple currency and the powers that be had a real racket going. Temple sacrifices had to be bought with the acceptable Tyrian coinage, and a high percentage was charged for changing coins. “So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” They had desecrated that which was to be a holy place and turned it into a money-making scam! Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!
EXAMPLE: We would do well to ask ourselves if we desecrate the holy place of God on Sundays in order to make it more acceptable for ourselves rather than a place of worship. My grandmother would say that there should be a certain amount of decorum maintained. We would call it manners or respectability. Perhaps we have bought into the lie that since God lives in us through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit we can do anything we desire during worship. God did not live in a place made by human hands, nor does he live within the walls of a church building, yet when his people who are called by his name gather themselves together to worship, he is there. And what we do while we are there says a lot to the Lord about whether we honor him above all other things; things like lattes, the Internet, Facebook, texting, or other distractions we deem more important than focusing on him. Perhaps we need to overturn some of the tables in our lives so we can focus on what is truly important when we worship. Here, Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple!
We no longer have holy passion and so we often expect our worship leaders, music ministers, or pastors to invoke in us the passion we lack. The sad truth is, no matter how emotional one gets, emotion never makes up for a true passion for the Lord. This is why we discover that…
II. Folks can misunderstand the true temple! (Vv. 18-22)
Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 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.
1. When we get caught in our sin we can either respond one of two ways, either by repenting and turning to the Lord or by getting defensive and demanding God prove we were in sin. Sadly, far too often those caught in sin do the latter. This is exactly what the Jews do after Jesus upsets their ill-conceived con game. The Jews vehemently demand of Jesus, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Basically they are saying, “We know we are wrong in doing what we are doing, but what gives you the right to do what you did!?” They are trying to shift the blame for their sin to Jesus! Jesus would later remind these same hypocrites, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! (Matthew 12:39 NIV)” In fact he tells them that the only “sign” they are going to get is the one of Jonah, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40 NIV)” And here Jesus bluntly answers them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Jesus wanted them to think about his answer, but they were thickheaded and confused because of their sinfulness. When we are in sin we never want to admit it is our problem, that we should change, or that we do not understand the significance of our ungodly behavior. They respond, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” We may wonder at how dense these folks were, but how dense can we be in our response to our sinful condition? We know that “the temple he had spoken of was his body.” But that should not excuse our behavior. Notice that it was only “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.” What is the reason we are so confused? Folks can misunderstand the true Temple!
EXAMPLE: Paul would later remind his readers that “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NIV)” Jesus didn’t cleanse the Temple because he thought God lived there, he cleansed it because it represented the place where God met with his people. Our lives in Christ are to be kept clean as well because we are now his temple, bought with a price, the blood of Jesus our personal sacrifice. When we hypocritically treat our lives in Christ with disdain, as the Jews did the Temple courts, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple!
Jesus cleanses the Temple area of animals and the money changers tables, but his time in Jerusalem was not done. He had other things to do. Jesus knew that the Hebrew nation was focused inward instead of on what mattered. They were to not only reach those who did not believe but they were honor God with their lives. The problem was and is that…
III. People often think they are the Temple! (Vv. 23-25)
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.
1. Wow, the Jews just demanded of Jesus that he show them some miracle in order to justify his actions concerning their sins and now we read that “while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” Interestingly, John chose not to describe any of them. John’s interest is in introducing us to Jesus and showing us how others viewed him. Folks are often more interested in making themselves the center of the universe rather than God. And isn’t it fascinating while those who questioned him about overturning the money changers tables and demanded he give them some miracle to show he could do such a thing, could now see for themselves by the miracles he performed! I believe John deliberately gives us this piece of irony to show their hypocrisy. No matter how many miracles Jesus did, they probably would not have believed he was the Messiah! This is why “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” Jesus knew that people’s first inclination would be to make him into some kind of rallying point, to make him their political puppet king who would rescue them from their oppressors the Romans. Later, they try to do this on several other occasions, however, “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15 NIV)” Those who opposed Jesus would falsely declare that Jesus wanted to make himself king! When Jesus was asked by the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate, “Are you the king of the Jews?” meaning was he declaring himself a king, Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36 NIV)” Temporary fame or excitement over his miracles would soon fade because people would just demand more and more, kind of like those who hike clear around the Sea of Galilee in order to get more food from him! Therefore, “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” People often think of themselves as the Temple!
EXAMPLE: We may say we worship Jesus or that we believe in God, but what we do next can say a whole lot about what we truly believe. When we show up for worship expecting God to “bless” us because we happened to be there; when we are haphazard with our prayers and demand God listen when we have a need; or when we know more about episodes of The Walking Dead than we know about books of the Bible perhaps we think God should revolve around us. Maintaining a way of life had become more important to the spiritual leadership of Jesus’ day than knowing the Messiah! And this was the problem just as it is today, people often think of themselves as the Temple! It is time we stop focusing on ourselves and begin to focus on what God desires; people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!
Jesus shows us his passion for the Temple, perhaps we are guilty of misunderstanding the true Temple, and sometimes people need to stop thinking they are the Temple!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.