17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
JOHN 2: 17 ESV
17 ἐμνήσθησαν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι γεγραμμένον ἐστίν· Ὁ ζῆλος τοῦ οἴκου σου καταφάγεταί με.
JOHN 2: 17 SBLGNT
Don Carson, in his commentary on the book of John, New Pillar Commentary, writes,
“John does not clarify whether Jesus’ disciples remembered this Old Testament text then and there or only after the resurrection (cf. v. 22). The text itself, Psalm 69:9, finds the psalmist crying to God because of the implacable opposition he has endured from his foes. A major source of this enmity is their failure to understand or be sympathetic with the psalmist’s profound commitment to the temple.
That is why he can say, ‘… zeal for your house consumes me’, for it is his Zeal for the temple that has placed him in this invidious position. With other New Testament writers, however, John detects in the experiences of David a prophetic paradigm that anticipates what must take place in the life of ‘great David’s greater Son’. That explains why the words in 2:17, quoted from the LXX, change the tense to the future: Zeal for your house will consume me.178 Jesus’ cleansing of the temple testifies to his concern for pure worship, a right relationship with God at the place supremely designated to serve as the focal point of the relationship between God and man. However, it is that very concern that is attracting opposition. For John, how Jesus will be ‘consumed’ is doubtless his death. If his disciples remembered these words at the time, they probably focused on the Zeal, not the manner of the ‘consumption’. Only later would they detect a reference to his death (cf. 2:22).”
Colin G. Kruse, in his John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, writes
“Jesus’ disciples must have watched his actions with fear and amazement. Fear because the temple officials would not let this affront to their authority go unchallenged, and amazement because Jesus had acted so decisively and with no apparent concern for the consequences. The evangelist tells us, His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ It was probably much later, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, that the disciples made sense of what he had done by recalling the words of Psalm 69:9. Here the psalmist speaks of being consumed with Zeal for God’s house and how this brought down upon him the antagonism of his fellows. Jesus, like the psalmist, and like Phineas, Elijah and Mattathias before him (Num. 25:6–13; 1 Kgs 19:10, 14; Sirach 48:1–4; 1 Maccabees 2:23–26), was consumed with Zeal to preserve God’s honour.”
William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, vol. 1, writes, the disciples, witnessing this manifestation of the Zeal of their Lord for the house of his Father, are filled with fear that Jesus may suffer what David had to endure in his day; namely, that this Zeal in some way would result in his being consumed.
In expressing this, use is made of Ps. 69, one of six Psalms most often referred to in the New Testament (the others being Pss. 2, 22, 89, 110, and 118). Other echoes of various passages of this Psalm (which is Ps. 68 in the LXX) are heard in Matt. 27:34, 48; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36; John 15:25; 19:28; Rom. 11:9, 10; 15:3; Heb. 11:26; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 16:1; 17:8; 20:12, 15; and 21:27. While some of these are quotations, others are allusions, references more or less indirect. Jesus himself (15:25) cites Ps. 69:4, “They hated me without a cause,” referring to his own experience. In fulfilment of Ps. 69:21, he uttered the word from the cross, “I thirst” (19:28).
From this, it appears that Ps. 69 is Messianic. It is possible that the disciples so regarded it even at this time, but that cannot be proved. These men, watching Jesus in the act of cleansing the temple, are reminded of Ps. 69:9. Note, however, that they, fearing that in some way what once happened to David, when he suffered reproaches as a result of his burning zeal for the cause of Jehovah, is going to happen to Jesus, change the tense from the past (LXX κατέφαγεν) to the future (καταφάγεται).
These are brilliant commentaries, which provide a wide array of theological interpretations to the context of the verse. However, reference to Psalm 69:9, maybe a little far-stretched, since the context of the passage by David had a different meaning as he was addressing a different context but like it, ironic similarity does imply that both Jesus Christ and David were applying the phrase within the same application. I believe it is not a Messianic prophecy in the Psalm, and the same applies to verse JOHN 19:28 and Pslam 69:21. If the Psalm is referred to as a Messianic Psalm, we should look at the context and reference of the complete Psalm. As was revealed by Isaiah 53 or Micah 5:2, and many others.
However, looking at both contexts of the Psalm and John 2:17, we can see that both individuals, Jesus and David, were foretelling and revealing the tribulation that they faced or were to face. Jesus utterance would imply a foretelling, whereas David was a revelation of the burdens he held. Nevertheless, it does not change the view by the commentaries, which viewed John 2:17 as Jesus, foretelling the ministry that laid ahead for him because of His Zeal for the Father in heaven and His will on the Son, the journey that laid ahead for Jesus Christ. Within this context, we can see that His disciples would hold this exact Zeal for the Father in the church after Jesus ascended to heaven.
Do we as Christian hold to that same Zeal that breaks all boundaries of our fears and reluctance in proclaiming the Kingdom and salvation of our saviour. Are we willing to put aside ‘self’ and embrace the truth in Christ? Unless we confess our sins and place our faith in Christ, can we be empowered by the Holy Spirit to sanctify ourselves in life worthy to the Kingdom? John reveals the manner in which Jesus was to conduct His earthly ministry, which was revealed to his disciples to see and follow. A zeal that engulfs our heart and soul, driven by our love for our Lord and saviour; the same Zeal, Jesus shows himself as a testimony to all who were witness to his divine presence.
The choice is ours, and how we make it has to be made, in view of the man who went to the cross for us. For if life is to bring meaning, we have to look ahead to far more than this mortal existence but to an eternity in a Kingdom, defeated of sin and death. A kingdom drown in the love, grace of our LORD GOD.