Category Archives: JOHN 2:13-25

The cleansing of the Temple at Jerusalem

JOHN 2:13-25

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2:13  And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2:14  And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

2:15  And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

2:16  And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise.

2:17  And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.

2:18  Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?

2:19  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

2:20  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?

2:21  But He spake of the temple of His body.

2:22  When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

2:23  Now when He was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.

2:24  But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because He knew all men,

2:25  And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man. 

(b) 2:13-22   In the temple at Jerusalem, the Passover at hand

2:13  And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 

John is careful to tell us that what in Old Testament times was called the Feast of the Lord, has now become the feast of the Jews.  Sadly, the festival had become man-orientated, and God’s interests were secondary.  This can happen with believers today.  The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians because the Lord’s Supper had become their supper, 1 Corinthians 11:20,21.  Instead of being for the glory of God, the assembly gathering had become a social occasion.  We should guard against this self-centredness creeping in amongst the assembly.  It can do so in subtle ways, such as by hymns that constantly use the word “I”, when in the assembly gatherings it should be “we”, the collective thought.  Also by occupation with our blessings and privileges, rather than upon the one who gained them for us at such a cost.
The temple services had become man-centred, but this is about to change, as Christ intervenes as one who has His Father’s interests at heart at all times and in all ways, and He becomes central.  John has already referred to Christ coming to His own things, 1:11, and here is a case in point.  The temple is His Father’s House, and as the Son of the Father it is His house too, although He does not claim this now.  Malachi spoke of a day when the Lord would come to His temple, Malachi 3:1, and here is a preview of that day.  He had been tempted to come suddenly, when the Devil suggested He should cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, Matthew 4:5-7.  He had refused to tempt God by doing this, but now comes to the temple as guided by His Father, and not provoked by the Devil.  Jerusalem was ideally the “Place of the Name”, where God was honoured, but that name was tarnished.  Christ goes to Jerusalem to remedy this.
It was required of Jewish males that they appear before the Lord at three seasons of the year, at Passover time, Pentecost, and the Feast of In-gathering, for the seven feasts of the Lord were clustered around these principal feasts, Deuteronomy 16:16,17.  The Lord Jesus magnified the law and made it honourable, and so was found faithfully appearing before God at these times.  Whilst for the Christian set feasts and a religious calendar are not the order of the day, yet there should be the exercise of heart to gather with the Lord’s people in accordance with the New Testament.  “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is”, Hebrews 10:25.

2:14  And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 

John’s Gospel especially emphasises the burnt offering side of things, so it is significant that he mentions the three classes of animal that were offered as burnt offerings, the sacrifice of a man who was devoted to God.  It is as if the Lord is “taking away the first”, that He may “establish the second”, see Hebrews 10:5-9.  The expulsion of the animals is the act of One who knows that His Father has no pleasure in them, since they are offered by the law, and offered in circumstances that are not glorifying to God.  He Himself mentions His body in verse 21, but there as a temple, in this section it is a potential sacrifice.
Clearly, the visitors to the temple have not come only to offer a Passover lamb, but to bring their other sacrifices as well, particularly if they lived in foreign lands.  These latter would need the service of the money-changers, in order to buy their animals.  We might wonder why the Lord expelled them therefore, so the explanation is given for us in the next verses.
These money changers were sitting, for they did not have to move about trying to find trade.  The pilgrims had no option but to use the licensed money changers, so all these latter had to do was sit and wait for their customers to come.

2:15  And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 

The word for cord means a rope made of bulrushes, so the scourge is symbolical only, an emblem of authority and judgement.  The temple was in chaos morally, and this is shown graphically and visibly by the Lord’s action here.  We must never think that the Lord did these things in a fit of temper.  He had been many times to these temple courts, and had seen what went on, and now, after long years of patient waiting, He moves to expose the wrong in a righteous and controlled way.

2:16  And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise. 

The dove sellers are especially singled out, because they would have dealings with the poor, (the dove-offering being the sacrifice the poor could make, Leviticus 5:7), and consequently would be more likely to take advantage of their vulnerability.  There is no mention of the second cleansing of the temple in John’s gospel, for in the synoptics the idea is of the continuance of the principle of an earthly temple, and the things which must be changed if Messiah is to be at home there in the future.  In John however there is an emphasis on the heavenly Father’s House, and fitness for a place there.  This is in line with the truth that Christ gave to the Samaritan woman.  True worship will be centred on heaven, not any earthly location.
Zechariah assures us that in the Millenial temple, there will no more be the Canaanite or merchantman in the house of the Lord, Zechariah 14:21, for self- interest will be displaced by the desire to glorify God alone in His temple.
Note that whilst he drives out the sheep and oxen, the Lord does not scatter the doves, only commands the dove-sellers to take them away.  Sheep and oxen are used to being driven, but He will not disturb the gentle dove.
In this first cleansing, the charge is making merchandise out of Divine things, and thus getting gain for themselves.  In the second cleansing, the charge is more severe, that of robbing God of His due.  The situation is all the more sad because it was the priestly family of Annas and Caiaphas who leased out the stalls in the temple courts, and these should have certainly known better, for “the priest’s lips should keep knowledge”, Malachi 2:7.
We should be very careful not to give the impression that the unsaved may contribute anything, including finance, to the Lord’s work, lest it should be thought of as a house of merchandise.  “taking nothing of the Gentiles” should be our motto in this regard, 3 John 7.  See also Ezra 4:1-3. 

2:17  And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up. 

Note that the disciples are learning to relate Old Testament scriptures to the Lord’s actions.  Psalm 69 is not especially Messianic, because it contains a confession of sin and foolishness, and this could never be on the lips of the Holy Son of God.  It is significant that Psalm 69:30,31 says that to magnify the Lord’s name is better than an ox or a bullock which has horns and hoofs, and this the Lord Jesus was doing by His actions at this time, as ever, John 12:28.
The duty of the Israelite heads of houses was to purge out the leaven found there, in preparation for the feast of unleavened bread which followed immediately after the feast of Passover.  As the Son representing His Father, the Lord Jesus undertakes to purge the leaven from the House of God, the temple at Jerusalem.
Today the House of God is the local assembly, 1 Timothy 3:15.  Can it be said of us that the zeal of that house consumes us?  Are we totally committed to furthering the interests of the Lord’s people in the assembly, or have we time only for our own interests, and rate the assembly as a secondary matter?  And do we ensure that we do not introduce into it anything that can be classed as leaven?  The Corinthians had introduced the leaven of immorality into the assembly, and the apostle commands them to purge it out, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.  The Galatians had allowed the introduction of the leaven of evil doctrine, and they are commanded to cut off from themselves those who had done this, Galatians 5:7-12.

2:18  Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things? 

Note the difference in reaction of these Jews in authority, to that of  the disciples.  His asserting of His authority had left them amazed and powerless.  The Jews require a sign, said the apostle Paul later, in 1 Corinthians 1:22.  They wanted proof that He was acting for God in His radical actions.  They asked a similar question at the second cleansing of the temple, but then the Lord refused to tell them His authority, for He had given ample proof during His ministry as to who He was and what His authority was.  By His actions and words here He in fact ensured they would slay Him at last, and the Divine response to the Jewish demand for a sign is always Messiah’s death and resurrection, Matthew 12:38-42.

2:19  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 

These are words which would be brought up at His trial, and twisted to try to gain His conviction, Matthew 26:26-61.  The Lord is speaking on two levels here.  By crucifying Him, they would secure the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple.  But Hosea had spoken of a period of three days after which God would raise up His people Israel again from the grave of the nations, Hosea 6:1,2. See also Deuteronomy 32:39.  Together with His dead body would they rise, Isaiah 26:19, or in other words, they would be associated with and believe in His resurrection at long last, and gain the benefits which His rising again brings to those who believe.  It was the Sadducean party which controlled the temple, and they did not believe in the resurrection of the body.  They will recognise this statement by Christ as an attack upon their doctrine.

2:20  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days? 

Not realising He was uttering a prophecy which involved the destruction and fall of the nation and its subsequent rise, they thought only in terms of physically building the temple.  They contrast Herod’s labours for 46 years, with the short period of 3 days.  Herod commenced the restoration and embellishment of the temple in 20 BC.

2:21  But He spake of the temple of His body. 

There is a vital link between the crucifixion of Christ, and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in AD 70, and various Scriptures suggest it, as follows:
1. Daniel 9:26 speaks of the Messiah being cut off, and then the city and sanctuary being destroyed.
2. Jacob prophesied of the time when the sons of Levi, the priestly tribe, would, in their anger, slay a man, and in their self will they would dig down a wall, Genesis 49:5-7.
3. The parable of the marriage of the king’s son vineyard involves the city of those who killed the messengers being destroyed, Matthew 22:1-7.
4. The Lord also linked the treatment meted out to God’s messengers, with the house being made desolate, Matthew 23:37-39.
So there is a vital connection between the destiny of the temple, and that of His body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Both will be destroyed, but both will rise again.  In the case of Christ’s body the destruction would mean the separation of His body, soul and spirit in death, and significantly, when that happened the vail of the temple was rent. It was as if the destruction of the Temple had begun!

2:22  When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. 

The disciples were slow to learn the truths that the Lord Jesus taught them, and they had to be rebuked for that slowness on more than one occasion.  After the resurrection things became clearer, especially when they received the Spirit at Pentecost, for the Spirit took of the things of Christ and revealed them unto them, as the Lord said He would, John 16:12-15.  Then they were not only able to understand what He had said to them when with them, but were also able to relate it to the Old Testament, and to do so in such a way as to recognise that His word and the Old Testament are of equal authority. 

(c) 2:23-25  In Jerusalem at the Passover

2:23  Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. 

Passover time was a commemoration of the deliverance God had effected for the nation in their downtrodden state.  It was also a reminder that Moses and Aaron were able to perform miracles to demonstrate that they were acting for Jehovah, the God of heaven.  The prophets had used this ancient deliverance as a symbol of the future deliverance of the nation under the Messiah.  Taking all these things together, we see that the time of Passover was one when expectations were raised considerably.  When one came who seemed to have authority, even in the temple courts, and, moreover, was able to work miracles, the people began to wonder whether the Messiah was in their midst.  Of course, it is true that the miracles the Lord Jesus did were indications that He was the prophesied Messiah, as a reading of Isaiah 35:5,6 and Hebrews 6:5 will show.  But it is not miracles alone that present this proof, but miracles accompanied by doctrine.  And it is the doctrine that went alongside the miracles, and was demonstrated by the miracles, that the natural heart of man was not willing to accept.

2:24  But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, 

We might think that this situation was just what Christ was looking for.  Not so.  His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, even that aspect of it which will be known upon the earth in a day to come.  The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17.  Carnal expectations of a political deliverance had no place in the thinking of Christ.  The Lord knew their hearts, that they believed on Him only in this carnal way; the same way in which any political figure may be believed in, as one able to produce results.

2:25  And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man. 

Jeremiah 17:9,10 reads- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?  I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every man according to His ways, and according to the fruit of his doings”.  It will become increasingly evident as the months go by that this is the case. 

It important to realise that there are different sorts of faith.  The ability to believe has been built into man by His Creator.  This is seen from two things.  First, the terrible consequences of not believing.  If a man is not able to believe, how can God be just when He condemns him to eternal damnation for not believing?  Second, Paul traces the cause of man’s unbelief to the work of the god of this age, Satan himself, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  If man can only believe when God gives Him faith, why does Satan need to blind men’s minds lest they believe?

So the reason there are different sorts of faith is because man is corrupted by sin, and prefers his own thoughts to God’s.  When the word of God is made known, however, the Spirit of God applies that word so that true and saving faith is exercised.  The Spirit does not produce the spurious forms of faith we shall look at now.

There is incorrect faith, when a person believes in their own ability to earn salvation, whether by religious ritual, or by good works.  They “trust in themselves that they are righteous”, Luke 18:9.  Or when a person believes about the Lord Jesus, but does not consciously repent and believe on Him in the gospel sense.

Then there is insincere faith, where a person makes a profession of faith for the sake of some advantage which he believes he may gain from it, or to please Christian parents or friends.

There is the impulsive faith that the Lord Jesus spoke of in the parable of the sower, where there was a plant which grew up in the shallow, rocky soil, and the same sun that caused it to quickly grow also caused it to wither, for it had no root in itself, the root being evidence of life within.  Such “for a while believe, but in time of temptation fall away”, Luke 8:13.  The true believer thrives on tribulation, Romans 5:3.  We might think that those of Acts 2 were like this, for they quickly responded to the gospel, but the genuineness and permanence of their faith is seen in them being “pricked to the heart”, for the word of God had produced true repentance and faith, Acts 2:37-40.  The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians about believing in vain, 1 Corinthians 15: 2, by which he meant believing without due consideration, and with a flippant, unthinking attitude.  Those who preach the gospel should preach a solid message, firmly grounded on the truth of Scripture, and one which appeals not to the emotions, (although the emotions cannot be totally excluded from conversion), but to the conscience, (2 Corinthians 4:2), heart, (Romans 10:10), mind, (2 Corinthians 4:4), and will, (Romans 1:5), of those listening.

Then there is the faith in Christ as a miracle-worker, the sort of faith being exercised in these verses.  This is imperfect faith, which the Lord does not despise, but rather seeks to turn into faith of the right sort.  Nicodemus was at first one of these, as his words in the next chapter show, (“we know Thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with Him”).  He was led on to see that it is as one given by the Father to the cross that he must believe in Christ.  Surely he reached that point, for he saw Christ hanging on the cross, and immediately came out from his secret discipleship to boldly go to Pilate and ask for the Lord’s body, so that he might bury it with dignity, John 19:38.

Such are the spurious forms of faith for which the Spirit of God is not responsible. There is however, that important faith, the faith that saves, and on the principle of which a person is reckoned right before God, as detailed in the Epistle to the Romans.  Now this faith is presented to us in the New Testament in three aspects, for different prepositions are used in the Greek in regard to it. We need therefore to consult our concordance and see the actual prepositions that are used.  We should remember as we do so, that Greek prepositions first of all tell of a physical position, and then a non-physical meaning which can be derived from this. 

So there are three prepositions used in this matter of faith in Christ.
There is the preposition “Eis”, which has to do with motion towards an object.  In relation to faith, this indicates that a person has Christ before him when he believes, so Christ is his object.  This preposition is used in regard to faith in Christ in the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles.  Christ is presented to men for their faith, and faith is directed towards Him as the object.  In some cases in the Scriptures this faith in Christ is incorrect, insincere or imperfect faith, and sometimes important, saving faith.  The context must decide.

There is the preposition “Epi”, which has to do with resting on an object.  In relation to faith in Christ, this indicates that Christ is the one on whom faith rests, so Christ is the foundation.  This preposition is used in the Acts and the Epistles, but not in the Gospels.  It is used after Christ died, rose again, and returned to heaven.  Christ is rested on as one proved to be a stable foundation. 

The following are the scriptures that use “epi”, meaning “upon”. 

“Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” Acts 11:17.

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”, Acts 16:31.

“And whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed”, Romans 9:33.

“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed”, Romans 10:11.

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting”, 1 Timothy 1:16;

“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded”, 1 Peter 2:6.
Note that three of these verses quote from Isaiah 28:16.

There is the preposition “En”, which has to do with being in a place or position within an object.  In relation to faith, this indicates that a person is fully surrounded by Christ, so Christ is his security.  Such an one believes from within this secure place.  This preposition is used 7 times, but only in the Epistles, after the work and person of Christ has been fully manifested, and the secure position of the believer is set forth.

The following are the scriptures which use “en”, meaning “in”.

“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus”, Galatians 3:26.

“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints”, Ephesians 1:15.

“Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints”, Colossians 1:4.

“And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus”, 1 Timothy 1:14.

“For they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus”, 1 Timothy 3:13.

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus”, 2 Timothy 1:13.

“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”, 2 Timothy 3:15.

Note that in six cases the faith is in Christ Jesus, the risen, glorified man in heaven, and once it is in the Lord Jesus, the one with all authority.  Faith in Him is well-placed.