2:13-14 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.
- Money changing was a common practice in the temple area because a certain special coinage was accepted by the priests for offering, and because of this, people who were coming from all over the area exchanged their coinage for this pure silver (more highly refined) coinage.
- By the word “temple” here we understand that this area to be the “outer court”, otherwise known as “the court of the Gentiles.”
- Some say that the reason for the exchange of coinage was because the priests wouldn’t accept coinage with Cesar’s image on it (because it would have been a pagan or idol image), but this is refuted aptly by Morris who says that the coinage they did accept had pagan markings on it as well. The money exchangers would sometimes charge up to 12% commission on the exchange.
- It is perfectly fine to have this convenience of money exchange and the selling of animals for sacrifice. After all, it would be most difficult for travelers coming from foreign lands to bring their spotless animal to the temple. But this is not what Jesus is objecting to. He is not focused on what they are doing as much as where they are doing it.
2:15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.
- It says that He made a “whip of cords”, which would have taken some premeditation on His part. It could have taken at least an hour to make something like this.
- Also He didn’t actually whip anyone – at least it is not recorded in the text that He whipped anyone. Sproul notes, quite astutely, that, “the purpose of the whip was to drive the animals out of the temple complex” not to actually whip the people who were in the temple. MacArthur agrees and adds, “Jesus was neither cruel to the animals (those who object to His mild use of force on them have never herded animals), nor overly harsh with the men.”
- There has been a significant scholarly debate about the timing of when Jesus did this temple cleansing. All of the synoptic gospels tell the story of Jesus cleaning the temple around the Passover time just before He was crucified. Here John seems to very clearly indicate (by use of chronological language) that this temple cleansing occurred shortly after His ministry began. Because of this, Morris, MacArthur, Sproul and others lay out a solid argument for there having been two times where Jesus cleansed the temple.
- The differences between the record of this second cleansing and the one mentioned here in John are significant. Beyond the significant difference of when the incidents are mentioned time-wise (the synopitics place this during the passion week, John places it at the beginning of Christ’s ministry), there are other particulars that don’t fit together to form only one event.
2:16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
- Here we see specifically the text that indicates that is the location or the selling that is the issue and not the selling itself. Jesus is not declaring Himself to be against the sacrificial system here, nor is He railing against capitalism as some have supposed. Jesus is bringing honor to God by reminding these men that God’s temple is a holy place.
- I wonder if we treat our bodies, which are the temple of the living God, with as much zeal and respect…
2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
- Sproul notes that, “Seeing Jesus cleanse the temple, His disciples connected His zeal to the zeal David had expressed.” Jesus had this in common with His forefather, and David’s zeal and expression of love for God was a foreshadowing of Christ’s greater zeal.
- David might not have had in mind the coming Messiah in Ps. 69, but the same Spirit who inspired David to write what he did also caused the disciples to see what they did in this Psalm, and that it was a foreshadowing of the greater zeal by a greater Son of David.
- Not only was David’s zeal a pre-figuring of the zeal of Christ, but MacArthur notes that Christ’s zeal here was a pre-figuring of the zeal with which He will return at His second advent (Zech. 14:20-21).
2:18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
- They didn’t arrest Him, but simply demanded to see a miracle or sign of some kind to show that He was a legitimate prophet. But, as MacArthur notes as well, the cleansing of the temple should have been sign enough!
2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
- The response He gives is indeed a sign, though it is not the one they expected, nor did they understand what He meant. For the sign He mentioned was the ultimate sign, the sign of the resurrection. The sign that would indicate that He was the Christ and had all authority in heaven and on earth to carry out His will and plan for mankind.
2:20-21 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”
- At this point in time the Temple building wasn’t even done.
- The temple that stood in Jesus’ day was the one built after the Jews returned from the Babylonian Captivity.
- About 20 years before Jesus was born, Herod had begun a massive renovation project that was finally completed only a few years before the Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D.
2:21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
John doesn’t leave us hanging, but explains to us what Christ had meant. Certainly at the time of these words John could not have known what Jesus was talking about. But now having several years past since these events, John is able to shed greater perspective on what Jesus was meaning.
2:22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
- Jesus says elsewhere that when He would leave, He would cause them to remember “all things” so that they would be able to tell others accurately about Him (John 16:13).
2:23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.
- He stayed in Jerusalem for the whole of the Feast and that He was also starting to manifest many signs among the people.
2:24-25 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people  and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
- He knew the depravity of men and that no one needed to prove that to anyone – it seemed as though it was common knowledge that men were/are sinful creatures. But there’s also a subtle contrast here with the nature of man and the nature of the Son of Man. No one needed to bear witness about what mankind was like, but bearing witness about Jesus is a theme throughout the book of John.
How do we teach this to our children? If you were to tell your children on the way home today that you learned about how Jesus was and is the Word of God, what would you say?
EXAMPLE: Today we learned about how Jesus drove all of the animals and moneychangers out of the Temple in Jerusalem. He did this because He loved the temple and He loved the worship of God. When we come to church, we need to be mindful of the fact that we’re entering into a holy place; a place that is special and consecrated (set apart for a special task) for the worship of God. When we don’t take that seriously, its like us saying that we don’t take God seriously, and don’t care to worship Him in a serious way. Jesus wasn’t like that though, He loved and revered God and wanted to make sure that others did as well.