A Study In John 2:12-25: When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple
12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
There is now a transition from the wedding at Cana to Jesus going to Jerusalem to cleanse the temple. We see that Jesus traveled with His mother, His brothers, and His disciples. After Mary gave birth to Jesus she had other children. In the gospel of Mark it mentions Jesus' four brothers and also that He had sisters (Mark 6:3). So Mary did not always remain a virgin. Joseph and Mary did not consummate their marriage until after Jesus was born. During Jesus' earthly ministry His own brothers did not believe He was the Messiah. But we know that after His resurrection that He appeared to His brother James and His brothers James and Jude wrote two of the books of the New Testament (1 Cor 15:7).
We must remember that Jesus was born a Jew and lived under the law. He perfectly kept the law and it was commanded by God in scripture that three times a year Jewish males were to make their way to Jerusalem (Deut 16:16). Because it was the time of the passover the city of Jerusalem would have been very busy with many people. The money changers in the temple took advantage of the people and their need for a sacrifice. Because Roman currency had a picture of the emperor on it who was worshipped as a god, the money had to be exchanged in the temple. Because of this those who exchanged money saw it as a way to make profit. They had turned the temple into a market place and it set the stage for the Son of God to clear it and show and demonstrate that He is truly Messiah.
The issue wasn’t that people were doing business, but where business was taking place. There was an area in the temple known as the court of the gentiles. It was an area where gentiles could come to worship the God of Israel. But what the money changers had done and those selling animals for sacrifices is they turned this area into a marketplace. The money changers took advantage of people and what should have been a place of worship and prayer turned into a marketplace. Jesus was enraged with zeal for His Father’s house. This was not out of control anger, but it was anger nonetheless. We must be careful in our day that we have not turned our churches into merely a place of entertainment or simply a social club. When we come together as the body of Christ, Jesus must always remain the center of everything. When our selfish wants and desire begin to drive what we do in worship, we have turned God’s house into a marketplace.
Jesus didn’t make a whip of cords to physically strike anyone. He made them because it made it more efficient to fully deal with the nonsense that was taking place. If we can imagine this scene for a moment. Jesus walks into the temple and begins to turn over tables and drive the animals out. It happened during the passover and all eyes would have been focused on Jesus. But the reason Jesus had the right and authority to do this is because He is God. This was His house and throughout John’s gospel He presents signs that point to Jesus as the Messiah.
By calling the temple His Father’s house Jesus was making a claim to deity. This would not escape the religious leaders of His day. He demonstrated where His authority came from to do this. God’s desire is an intimate relationship with us. Too many times even in our own day those who are in a position of leadership allow the love of money and influence to corrupt the purity of what God desires to do. The religious leaders of Jesus day had allowed this place to become a marketplace. Jesus' zeal would eventually lead them to want to kill Him and get rid of Him. But this was the Father’s will. Jesus came to lay down His life for all humanity.
What drove Jesus to clear the temple was zeal for His Father’s house. In Psalm 69:9 it states: Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. Jesus' anger was not focused on the people because He knew they were simply lost sheep without a shepherd. Jesus was angry at what they had made the temple into and the sin that was manifested through them. We must be careful if we simply think that Jesus is just filled with love, grace, and mercy. The love and mercy God has for us is far greater than we can understand. But God is also holy, righteous, and just and when we have a wrong attitude concerning the things that should be treated with respect and fear, the Lord has an incredible way of correcting our attitude and bringing discipline.
The religious leaders of Jesus day always attacked His authority. If they could show that Jesus had no authority or His authority came from Himself, they could show that His teaching and His words were false. But in all that Christ did He demonstrated His authority and showed that He is God. His greatest demonstration as God and being the Messiah is the resurrection. All that we have in Christianity is built upon the resurrection. Without the resurrection, we have nothing.
Jesus states destroy this body and in three days I will raise it up. Through His death and resurrection Jesus would show beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is not only the Messiah, but He is God. The religious leaders were blinded to truth and thought Jesus was speaking of the physical temple. But Jesus spoke of His body. We who are in Christ today have hope because of Jesus' resurrection. No matter what happens to us on this earth, we know that our lives are in the hands of Almighty God. Because Jesus has overcome the grave we no longer fear death. Through Christ we have the ultimate victory.
Jesus has just cleared the temple. The religious leaders who are challenging Jesus' authority presume when Jesus speaks of destroying the temple and raising it in three days that He was speaking of the physical temple. The temple that Jesus cleared was built initially by Zerrububel five hundred years earlier. Herod was remodeling the temple and the remodel had gone on for forty-six years. It seemed like a ridiculous statement that Jesus would destroy the physical temple and have it rebuilt in only three days. But it simply demonstrates the blindness of the religious leaders and also shows that God reveals truth to those He chooses to reveal truth. If we have come to place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ today we should understand how blessed we truly are. We are simply saved by His grace, our eyes are open by the grace of God. His mercies are new every morning and for those of us in Christ, His mercy and grace has been lavished upon us.
During Jesus' earthly ministry the disciples did not have a full understanding of everything Jesus taught nor fully understood everything Jesus did. This event in particular would have caught them off guard because of the reaction of the religious leaders. But reflecting after Jesus' resurrection and ascension back to the Father, they came to fully understand through the work and person of the Holy Spirit what the scriptures in the Old Testament spoke of and pointed to Jesus as Messiah. They also came to fully understand that every sign and action of Jesus on the earth had an eternal purpose. The more we walk with Christ, the more we come to know Him. No matter how well we think we know Jesus, the more we know Him, the little we see we know and it creates a hunger in us to know Him even more.
It says during the same week that Jesus had cleared the temple that many saw the signs He did and believed in Jesus. John doesn’t specify what signs Jesus performed. At the end of the gospel John wrote that if all the things Jesus did were written down there wouldn’t be enough books to contain all of it (John 21:25). Every account in which John specifies the details of a miracle or sign has the purpose of showing that Jesus is God. Here many saw the signs and believed. But we see that Jesus didn’t entrust Himself to anyone.
Jesus knew above all else that the human heart is inherently wicked (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Jesus knew those who had truly come to believe and those who had simply responded on the surface to signs and miracles that they saw. Many times we may think if we could just perform a bunch of miracles in the name of Jesus that people would come to saving faith. But during the days in which Christ Himself walked on the earth, many saw the miracles and for a time followed Him, but the way Jesus would often thin out the crowd was by speaking truth.
Paul tells us that the gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16). Signs, wonders, and miracles are awesome when they happen. But what truly matters is how people respond to the truth. As believers and followers of Jesus we must hold fast to the truth. We must be students of the word of God. Daily we need to study the scriptures, immerse our lives in them, meditate upon them, and allow God to write them upon our hearts. Jesus in the beginning of His ministry had large crowds that followed Him. But in the end He died alone upon a cross. May we never compromise truth for the love and acclaim of man. May we hold fast to the truth of God’s word, no matter the cost.