“My Father’s house” (part two)

Posted: November 6, 2012 in Sunday school
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Jesus Clears the Temple (2:13-25) – John now shifts the scene and the focus (remember, this Gospel jump-cuts). In Cana we saw Jesus replacing in Himself the Jewish ideas of purification; here, in Jerusalem, He is being held up against the traditional heart of Jewish worship and identity…the Temple. Jesus’ famous righteous anger is on display, but also famously misinterpreted…used to justify all manner of things not intended by the Lord. Let’s go to the text:

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then responded to Him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and You are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple He had spoken of was His body. 22 After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs He was performing and believed in His name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for He knew what was in each person.

(v.16-17) – Jesus tells us as much about the nature of His anger by what He doesn’t do, as by what He says and does. Notice that He does not open the cages and release the doves (contrary to every movie director’s dramatic vision) – that would deprive the vendors of their livelihood, adding injustice, not relieving it. No, Jesus tells them to get the merchandise out of the Temple, and return it to its original purpose: a holy place, set aside to the Lord. Jesus also again identifies Himself explicitly as the Son of God by calling it “My Father’s house”; the text quotes Psalm 69:9 as the thought that comes to their minds (a direct Messianic claim), but other passages surely resonated in their memories: the prophets Jeremiah, Zechariah (read “Caananite” as “merchant”), and Malachi all spoke against the manner in which the people regarded the house of the Lord, and the consequences of it. So the injustice that outrages Jesus and inspires His anger is the injustice of the people disregarding the house of the Lord – turning a holy place into a market place, and in the process making themselves the true objects of worship.

(v.18-22) – I find it interesting that the Temple authorities (“the Jews” to John) do nothing to stop Jesus during His rampage, or even to restrain or dispose of Him once He is finished; instead, they ask Him for His credentials! Remember how they questioned John the Baptist about the source of his authority to baptize? For these Jews, it’s all about authority, and they are quick to confront anything or anyone that challenges them. They demand a sign to prove that Jesus has the right to do such things and make such statements – but in all truth they do not expect one. This is a legal formality which allows them to bring a charge of heresy and blasphemy, citing the lack of a sign as proof of falseness.  In His response, Jesus makes the ultimate claim, foreshadowing His death on the cross (“My hour”, as He called it in verse four above) and resurrection on the third day. “This temple” obviously (to us and to John) refers to Jesus’ own body; to the Jews this was nothing short of a declaration of war on their status quo. By naming His own body as “the temple”, Jesus asserts that He will replace it as the economic/cultural/religious center of the Kingdom of heaven. This is so radical an idea that the Jews miss it entirely, pointing at the brick-and-mortar building instead of what it represented – another of the classical misunderstandings that John employs again and again, to illustrate the darkness of the world and how Jesus comes as the true Light. Note that we see the seeds of faith being planted; as the disciples “recalled” these words and events after the resurrection, their fulfillment was biblical-grade proof of the truthfulness of the prophet speaking them, and inspired belief. It is this kind of reasonable faith that Jesus seeks to inspire – we can believe in God, because we have seen proof of Him in Jesus Christ.

(v.23-25) – This closing passage is another evidence that John is not trying to give an exhaustive account of Jesus’ life and ministry; he chooses to highlight specific examples that make the case for him. However, we also see one common thread: whenever Jesus acts, people are drawn to it, and in the heat of that moment they can believe anything, and make sincere professions of faithfulness. But, in a display of His divine nature, He knows that many, if not most, of these shallow commitments will wither away, and so “Jesus would not entrust Himself to them.” This passage, to me, is another evidence that not all those who profess His name are actually His – clearly the text says He can and does withhold Himself, and this would explain how He could say to them, “I never knew you.”

On Mondays I present short versions of the Sunday school lessons I teach at my home church. We are studying the Gospel of John, with the focus of seeing Jesus as the Apostle wishes: the holy Son of God; the Messiah prophesied by all of the Old Testament; the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption. Once we see Him, we will have to believe, and thus be saved.  Scripture references are NIV unless otherwise noted.

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