JOHN:The Gospel of Heartfelt Belief
Honoring Godís Temple
Jerry A. Collins
On a Saturday morning I walked out to the driveway on my way to the store and noticed our car was not there. My first thought was that Ruth had let someone borrow it and they had not yet returned. It was just the first thought that came to me. Then my next thought was that someone had stolen it. I stood there for a moment hoping that my first thought was correct. You know how you do that when you do not want to believe what looks like the truth. It was stolen and after calling the police we waited to hear something. That afternoon I presided over a wedding and was returning home. At a stoplight I looked twice at the car in front of me and realized that that was our stolen car with 5 teenagers in it, the driver having gloves on. Then I noticed the car. It was filthy with dried mud all over it. The bumper was torn off and hubcaps missing. My heart sank. Then I was mad. I followed them but lost them after a couple of miles. Later that afternoon the police called and we did get our car back. Inside were cigarette burns and carvings in the dashboard. This was something we owned and was special but now was defiled. It had been misused and looked like it!
Even though our car was a precious object to us, itís defilement was nothing like that of the Temple in Jerusalem which was precious to Christ. We will see that violating the Temple offends Christ and warrants being cleaned up because it is the place God ordained as His place of worship.
THE SETTING (12-13)
Capernaumwill become the Lordís headquarters for His Galilean ministry (Matt 4:13;9:1). So much of Jesusí ministry transpires in and around Capernaum that Jesus says it is worthy of greater condemnation because the people of this city have seen more of His miracles and yet the implication is that they remain in unbelief (Matt 11:23).
Mothers, brothers referred to because it seems to be the final stay with his family and his family is about to change (Mark 3:31-38). From here on He becomes alienated from His immediate family (John 7:3-5). Jesus disciples are also present and they will get Jesus attention now instead of His family.
Passover Jesus and his disciples leave Capernaum after a short time and travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover which is the occasion that precipitates the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus.
THE CLEANSING (14-17)
(1) Our Priority must be preventing the defiling of Gods temple (13-16).
It was not a healing or a teaching or act of compassion that was Jesus first public act of His ministry but the cleansing of the Temple area. It seems that the description of this as the first public act of Jesus ministry is to show the priority Jesus placed on it. Since the setting is the Passover we can conclude that the temple was a very busy place because of the Jews attending the Passover from all over the world. The Passover celebration was a week in duration and these travelers had to offer animals they could buy in Jerusalem. For some reason these animals have been brought into the temple court area making it more convenient to purchase but more difficult for the Gentiles to pray and worship God. The place of prayer had become a place of profit-taking distorting and confusing the purpose for the temple. Jesus enters fashioning a whip and begins a small stampede while driving out the animals and overturns the money tables in the process! Jesus comments in vs 16 that they have turned the Fathers house into a marketplace! It is interesting that Jesus even viewed the temple court area for the Gentiles as part of his fathers house.
Our priority is also to honor the dwelling place of God which is our own body. 1 Peter 2:4-10 says that the church is now being built up as His temple. The church is believers and believers are Gods temple. Each one is individually temples of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the HS in you whom you have from God and you are not your own? For you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body. God owns our body as His temple. Sin in our lives defile this temple so we must walk in the Spirit and sow seeds to the Spirit so we will not fulfill the lusts of our flesh (Galatians 5:13-26). Every defilement in our lives must be treated just like Jesus treated the defilement of the Temple. There must be no tolerance of sin in our lives and we must be committed to drive it out when it is exposed and revealed to us by repenting and sowing seeds of righteousness in our lives. We must be determined to wipe it out.
The remark in vs 17 Passion for your house will devour me comes from Psalm 69:9 and indicates that Jesus would pay the ultimate price for His commitment to the temple. After His death and resurrection the disciples would have remembered that Jesusí cleansing of the temple would eventually lead to His death but pave the way for the miracle of the resurrection. Jesus also cleansed the Temple a second time near the end of His ministry (Matt 21:12-13;Mk 11:15-17;Lk 19:45-16). While this first cleansing caught people by surprise, the second one about three years later, was one of the immediate causes of His death. In Psalm 69:8-9 we have a prophecy of Jesus alienation even from His mothers children.
Mary is not mentioned again until the cross and Jesusí brothers are skeptical about Jesus and His ministry. Has Jesus already begun to be alienated from His own brothers because of the events beginning with cleansing of the temple?
(2) Preventing the defiling of our bodies as Gods temple may alienate us.
For sure the world is a dirty place in which to live and preventing defilement is a daily business of ours. We are deluged with defiling stuff all the time. For instance when we refuse to be sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexual, thieves, greedy, drunkards, verbally abusive and swindlers (1 Cor 6:9-10) the world will alienate us. When we determine to prevent works of the flesh...sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissessions, factions, envyings, murders, drunkenness, carousings, and similar things (Galatians 5:19-21) we can expect to be alienated from the world as Jesus was. James commands us to keep ourselves unstained by the world (James 1:27). Are you afraid of being alienated by the world because of your determination to honor Gods temple, your body? It all depends on what side of the grave you are willing to live for.
In vss. 18-20 demand a sign of Jesus to demonstrate His authority to act as he has. Apparently they understood what Jesusí had done as the activity of a prophet resembling the actions of an OT one. But what would Jesus action have suggested? They wanted to know what credentials he had to prove He had the authority to act. Jesus answered them by prophesying His death and resurrection using the temple as an example of His body being destroyed and raised in three days. This was virtually impossible to understand given the information His followers had at the time. The point is that the temple is not just a building, it is Jesus resurrected body. In other words, the temple as the place where men to go and worship God has been supplanted and replaced by Jesus himself.
It is not always necessary to make the truth easy to understand. The reason is because Christlike teaching is teaching that provides future wisdom not just a present following. Confusion seems to be the norm for the purpose of providing future wisdom. We know that the disciples eventually get it because John tells us so in vs 21. These Jews assume Jesus is talking about the physical temple and argue such in vs 20. Herods temple has been under construction for 46 years. Does he think he can rebuild it in three days? When Jesus taught, he taught truth that often required self discovery. It was truth that had to be sought for. Eventually his hard sayings and confusing message became too much for many of his followers and they left him in droves (John 6:60-69) until there are twelve left. We are not trying to create a following but to discover who wants to follow. That happens by teaching the Word and discovering those willing to learn more.
THE CONCLUSION (22)
Apparently the disciples did not remember Psalm 69:9 referred to Jesus right on the spot but it was a later insight they had after he was resurrected. They did not see the need for His death so they were not thinking along these lines until after the event. Eventually those seeking the truth will find it. If you want to know the truth you will locate it and it will change your life. It changed the disciples!