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. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”
JOHN 2: 15-16 ESV
15 καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων πάντας ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας, καὶ τῶν κολλυβιστῶν ἐξέχεεν τὰ κέρματα καὶ τὰς τραπέζας ἀνέστρεψεν, 16 καὶ τοῖς τὰς περιστερὰς πωλοῦσιν εἶπεν· Ἄρατε ταῦτα ἐντεῦθεν, μὴ ποιεῖτε τὸν οἶκον τοῦ πατρός μου οἶκον ἐμπορίου.
JOHN 2: 15-16 SBLGNT
There is no evidence that the animal merchants and money-changers or the priestly authorities who allowed them to use the outer court were corrupt companions in graft. Jesus’ complaint is not that they are guilty of sharp business practices and should therefore reform their ethical life, but that they should not be in the temple area at all. “How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” he exclaims. Solemn dignity and the murmur of prayer, but cattle bellowing and sheep bleating. There is noisy commerce instead of brokenness and contrition, holy adoration and prolonged petition. Richard Bauckham, in his book ‘Jesus’ Demonstration in the Temple’, in Barnabas Lindars (ed.), Law and Religion: Essays on the Place of the Law in Israel and Early Christianity states, what he calls ‘Jesus’ demonstration in the temple ‘was an attack on the whole of the financial arrangements for the sacrificial system’, and thus an enormous threat to the priestly authorities.
Some scholars have suggested an allusion to Zechariah 14:21: ‘And on that day there will no longer be a merchant in the house of the LORD Almighty.’ Equally, John may be alluding to Malachi 3:1, 3: ‘Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple. … he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.’ Therefore, this means that this act of prophetic symbolism was a denunciation of worship that was not pure, and it was a prophetic invitation to worship God from the heart without clamour or distracting influences. At the same time, it leads into a related theme: the temple itself, the focal point where God and believers meet, where God accepts believers because of a bloody sacrifice, will be superseded by another ‘temple’, another sacrifice (vv. 18–22).
Jesus’ physical action was forceful but not cruel; one does not easily drive out cattle and sheep without a whip of cords. Still, his action could not have generated a riotous uproar, or there would have been swift reprisals from the Roman troops in the fortress of Antonia overlooking part of the temple complex.
Some observe that Jesus’ mention of God as his Father does not evoke the same response as in 5:18. – 18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. That (he argues) is because the author treats one thing at a time: here (2:18), he goes on to explore the question of Jesus’ authority, while in John 5, he discusses Jesus’ person. However, though perhaps strange, the reference to God as one’s Father was not itself tantamount to making oneself equal with God: everything depended on the context. Here the focal point is Jesus’ authority, not because the Evangelist can only manage one topic at a time, but because the cleansing of the temple demanded that Jesus provide some credentials. However, in John 5, Jesus’ reference to his Father offered a context where Jesus works with the Father and above the law, an authority that far supersedes any temple authority.
When we look at the context of the temple cleansing, which ultimately is destroyed in Luke 23: 45 – “while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” Mark 15:38 “38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” and Matthew 27: 51 – “51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.” Ironically, Jesus even establishes in verse 19 – “19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
So why did Jesus react in such a manner, and what does it represent today. The temple is a holy place where we offer sacrifices for our sins and find an intimate relationship with our loving God. Then why react, and what does it mean for us Christians who live post temple cleansing.
The temple is now within us; Jesus gave through his death on the cross. His sacrifice for all our sins justifies us and, through faith, sanctified with the power of the Holy Spirit. The temple is us, and we continue to stain and contaminant that sacred venue in our soul by the sins of this immoral world. Jesus has cleansed the Old temple, and the New temple lies in us, and we are called to cleanse our temple of all immoral and sinful ways that subjugate our objective focus on the absolutes of God.
The New Covenant temple lies in each of us, and unless we cleanse our souls, we will never have the Kingdom promised. Jesus has cleansed the temple of old and rebuilt the new temple in us.
CLEANSE OUR SOULS OF SIN AND REBUILD THE TEMPLE WITHIN US.