John 2:12-25- Commotion in the Temple

Explanation- Verse 12 begins by saying, ‘after this’, which would mean that up until this point all of the events in the Book of John have been chronological. In verse 13 we are informed that the Jewish Passover was at hand. From this we would deduce that it was the month of Nisan (usually March or April on the Gregorian calendar). This is significant because, chronologically speaking, this was the first Passover celebrated during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Scholars disagree regarding exactly how many Passovers that Christ observed during His earthly ministry. There are three direct references to separate Passover celebrations in the book of John, but numbers vary from two observances all the way up to five depending on who you ask.

Interestingly enough, Christ enters the temple during this holy time in Israel and finds that it is overrun by merchants and money-changers. What was meant to be the house of worship for God’s chosen people had in turn become a den of thieves. Christ, in the true spirit of righteous indignation, drives these peddlers out of the temple. Ryle comments that, “To attend a marriage feast, and cleanse the temple from profanation were among the first acts of our Lord’s ministry at His first coming. To purify the whole visible church, and hold a marriage super, will be among His first acts, when he comes again.”[1] This act of cleansing the temple provoked the memories of the disciples and they were drawn back to the Hebrew Scriptures in the 69th chapter of the Book of Psalms where it reads, ‘…zeal for your house has consumed me’. Christ was (and is) God of very Gods and He burns with passion for the glory of His Father’s name. It is clear that the animal merchants were established to sell sacrifices to those who were travelling to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover feast. As for the money-changers, these were set up to translate the coin of foreign residents into the current coin of Jerusalem. This was clearly a profaning of the temple courtyard and caused Christ’s spirit to react in holy ‘violence’ toward this lack of reverence to the things of the Lord. No doubt the temple officials were in on this scheme and profited from it in some way.

Prompted by Jesus’ actions, the Jews seek a sign proving to them why he was doing these things. Paul notes on the Jews demanding of signs in 1 Corinthians 1:22. In response to this Paul, like Christ, says that, ‘we preach Christ crucified…’ This is the sign that Christ offered to the Jews (and Gentiles for that matter). ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ (Jn. 2:19). Christ was foretelling His crucifixion. This was and is the sign that He has given to men of all ages. Namely that He was to be crucified and risen again on the third day. The wisdom of God from all ages was to be found in this glorious act of Christ’s crushing. It was prophesied in Isaiah 53 that He would be the suffering servant who would lay down His life for His people. He would take the weight of their sins upon Himself and in turn be crushed under their burden. ‘Upon Him was the chastisement that brought our peace’ (Isa. 53:5). It is clear by the response of the hearers that they had not been granted spiritual eyes to see the realities of what Christ spoke. This theme echoes into our day as well. Many look for signs and wonders displaying God’s reality in order that they may believe, but true faith is of a different sort all together. The world say first let me see and then I will believe, but the Bible say that first you must believe and then you will see. Thus, faith stands contrary to the laws of reason in this age. Even the disciples did not fully understand the implications of what Christ said here until after He was resurrected.

Last, I would like to note on the response of the ‘many’ mentioned in verse 23. These many saw the signs that Christ did display and believed on account of the signs. There is no proof of a humble submission to the authority of Christ’s deity, but only a superficial awe of what they seemed to perceive as the mighty works of a man. Jesus, in His omniscience, knew the hearts of these men and did not entrust Himself to them. He did not need their flattery to confirm His deity, for He knew what was in man. These who were so eager to receive His works in chapter two would in turn be (more than likely) the same ones who would be shouting, ‘Crucify Him’, later on. In light of this, the old saying seems rather wise, ‘a man ought to be friendly with all, but intimate with few’.[2]

Application- Christ began His ministry with authority. He did not wait for the beckoning or approval of man to practice the will of His Father. Despite this, in some way, Christ still viewed Himself as one who was under authority Himself. In Matthew 28:18 He says that, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.’ Although Christ contained within Himself the fullness of deity, He still willfully submitted Himself to the authority of His Father. In this He left us an example of how we are to submit ourselves Him, as well as the other authorities in our lives. Unlike the submission of the ‘many’ noted in verse 23, which depended on Christ’s continuation of marvelous works signs and wonders to remain subordinate, our submission is to be one of joyful obedience and reverence. We do not follow Christ because of what He can in turn do for us, but because He is the sovereign Lord over all creation who is worthy of all glory, honor, and praise. The ease (or difficulty) of our lives do not dictate the worthiness of Christ to be praised, but it is His inherent worth within Himself that dictates our response of praise and adoration. He desires a life of holy consecration unto Himself amongst His people. This a major reason as to why He entered the temple in such fashion as He did. The so-called people of God had turned the holy place into a den of thieves. They had forsaken the life of humble submission and reverence for God in the name of filthy lucre and personal gain. One of the ways that God’s people display His glory to the world is through their humble submission to His authoritative rulership. Let us take heed lest our worship, submission, and adoration become muddled by the filth of personal gain and existentialism. Our lives are to be ones that reflect the truth of this statement, ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’ (Mt. 6:10).

[1] Ryle, J. C. Expository Thoughts on John (volume 1). Place of Publication Not Identified: Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, 73-74.

[2] Ryle, J. C. Expository Thoughts on John (volume 1). Place of Publication Not Identified: Banner of Truth Trust, 2012, 84.