Jesus’ Grand Entrance

Posted: December 8, 2014 in John

John 2:13-25, “Jesus’ Grand Entrance”

Some people know how to make an entrance.  There are those of us who arrive just like everyone else, and tend to blend into the background – and then there are others who command attention when they show up.  Jesus could blend in when He wanted to – and He could also make quite the splash, and that’s what He did when He arrived in Jerusalem for the Passover.  Jesus’ ministry had not quite begun prior to this point, and this seemed to kick everything into high gear.  All of a sudden, the eyes of all the people are upon Him, and they question His authority to do the things that He did.

Jesus most certainly had the authority to cleanse the temple the way He did, because Jesus is God.  And this would be proven in abundance with His resurrection from the dead.  Jesus didn’t need the approval of the people; they were the ones who needed His grace.  Thankfully, that is exactly what He extended to them (and to all of us) through the cross and resurrection.

Before we get into the text itself, we need to address a basic question: when did all of this take place?  All four gospel accounts record a cleansing of the Jerusalem temple, where Jesus threw out those who sold animals and exchanged money – but the timing between the Synoptics (Mt, Mk, Lk) and John are very different.  The Synoptic Gospels clearly show Jesus doing this at the very end of His ministry, right as He comes into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday with the Triumphal Entry.  At that point, He is literally days away from the cross, and His actions in the temple seem to be one of the driving forces for the Pharisees and Sadducees to get rid of Him.  Yet the Gospel of John shows this taking place at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  In fact, it seems to be THE beginning of His ministry, in that it follows on the heels of Jesus’ miracle at the wedding in Cana, and Jesus did as much as He could to stay out of the spotlight in that situation.

Some have claimed that there’s no difference between the Synoptics and John, and that John just placed his telling of the temple cleansing at the beginning for thematic purposes.  Others have claimed that because John wrote his gospel account last, after the other three, that he is correcting the Synoptics on their timeline.  Both ideas seem rather unlikely.  No doubt John was familiar with at least one (if not all three) of the other gospels, and he goes out of his way to include events of Jesus that the previous gospels did not address.  In fact, John doesn’t seem to correct the Synoptics at all, but rather fill in some information that may have been missing from the earlier accounts (as to the origin of the charge against Jesus that He would destroy the temple).  And although it is indeed possible that John rearranged the timeline for his thematic purposes, there just doesn’t seem to be a point to it…especially when the chronology is so very different (the beginning vs. the end).

The most likely scenario is that there were two temple cleansings: one at the Passover at the start of Jesus’ ministry, and the other at the Passover at the end of Jesus’ ministry.  There are differences between the accounts.  John shows Jesus making a whip; the Synoptics do not.  What Jesus says to the people is different (the Synoptics have Jesus accusing the Jews of making the temple a “den of thieves).  And (most importantly) when Jesus is later questioned about His authority to do this act, His answer is completely different.  In the Synoptics, Jesus turns the question back upon them and asks about the authority of John the Baptist; in the gospel of John, Jesus speaks of His resurrection.

That there would have been two occasions to cleanse the temple ought not to be surprising.  Jesus kicked out the merchants once, but as soon as He was gone, what would prevent them from returning?  The bulk of Jesus’ ministry was in Galilee; not Jerusalem (though John will show Jesus often in Jerusalem).  The merchants and temple leaders had a good racket going for them.  As soon as things settled down again, they would just pick back up where they left off.  Thus Jesus could have easily have cleansed the temple more than once.  In fact, the better question might be why Jesus isn’t recorded as doing it every time He visited Jerusalem.

In any case, Jesus DID cleanse the temple, and He had every right to cleanse the temple.  This was His Father’s house, and it was supposed to be a place the people could come and worship.  Instead, the worship of God was corrupted, and the people of God were abused.  The Son of God wouldn’t stand for it.  Thus He began His ministry with a bang – exploding onto the national radar with a massive assertion of His authority.  And He had the power to back it up; it would be seen three years later when He rose from the dead.

John 2:13–25
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

  1. Passover is a fitting beginning to the public ministry of Jesus.  This is the very reason He had come: to be the Passover Lamb that takes away the sin of the world.  The celebration of God’s provision for the freedom of the Jews bookends the ministry of Jesus.  It shows the whole reason that Jesus came was to be a sacrifice for the sin of the world.  The Son of God would die, so that we would not have to.
    1. BTW – we’re in the midst of the Christmas season, when we remember Jesus’ birth.  We cannot think of Jesus’ birth without thinking of His death.  Jesus didn’t come to be a baby; He came to be a sacrifice.  His birth in Bethlehem was simply the first step in the process.  Ultimately Christmas (like Easter) is all about God’s provision for sin through His Incarnate Son, Jesus.
  2. With the Passover, Jesus (like everyone else in the nation) “went up to Jerusalem.”  This marked a big change & the beginning of His ministry.  He had engaged in at least some teaching, even if it was privately to His disciples – but most of what Jesus did had been out of the public hour, as He told His mother in Cana that His hour had not yet come.  All of that changed on this Passover.  With this particular act, Jesus was thrust into the public eye in a major way.

14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.

  1. This was the business of doing business in the Temple.  It was corrupt.  They basically charged admission for the privilege to worship God.  Like many things, it in all probability started out with the best of intents.  The Jewish nation was required to come to Jerusalem for the Passover, and they were to sacrifice a lamb without blemish.  What would happen if they traveled all of that way, and the lamb they brought got sick?  Or what would if they brought one that was unacceptable?  They would need find an acceptable lamb quick – and thus they could purchase one at the temple.  Of course, the merchants in the temple sold more than sheep – they were available for all of the other sacrifices as well and sold the oxen and doves that were required.  What had likely begun as a service of convenience became a cesspool of corruption.  Soon, it’s not good enough to bring your own animal – no animal brought from the outside would be acceptable for use in sacrifice.  Thus they had to buy the temple livestock.  Any by the way, your normal money wasn’t any good in the temple.  You had to use the coins acceptable by the priests in order to do your transaction, so money exchanges were set up.  And like any money exchange, the person doing the exchange makes a nice profit.  Again, this was spiritual abuse.  They were using godliness as a means of gain, and it was utterly wrong.
  2. Note that every economic class of people was affected in this.  They didn’t just stick it to the rich; they also forced the poor to do the same thing.  Only the poorest of the people would use doves in their offering, and the temple leadership was more than willing to sell their doves to the people.  It was bad enough to take advantage of the rich and middle class in this way; they made it worse by exploiting the poor.

15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

  1. Some people look at this and think that Jesus threw a temper tantrum in the middle of the temple – that He lost Himself in a fit of rage.  That’s absolutely false.  Jesus did NOT lose His cool.  He may have been rightly angry (we don’t know for certain, since John is the only writer to tell us of this particular event), but even if He was angry, His anger was fully under control.  The proof?  Jesus took the time to make a “whip of cords.”  Granted, this wouldn’t have taken very long, but it does show that He doesn’t just explode in anger and throw a temper tantrum.
  2. He didn’t lose His cool, but He did act with purpose.  Jesus systematically ejected everyone who had brought their business in the temple.  He drove everyone out.  He knew exactly what He was doing and why He was doing it.  He wanted the whole system totally disrupted.  Jesus didn’t merely relocate the fleecing of the people; He stopped it entirely.  That was the point in overturning the tables of the money-changers.  Coins would have scattered everywhere.  With the whip, the animals were driven out, but they didn’t exactly have corrals outside the temple – we can imagine their owners trying to keep all of the animals together.  It would have been a pretty chaotic situation, but done so by design.
  3. Of course Jesus didn’t just act; He spoke.  Jesus’ words may have been specifically spoken to the sellers of doves, but they applied to everyone involved.  The Temple was supposed to be a house of prayer and worship; they had turned it into a shopping mall – a flea market.  (And it wouldn’t be the last time!)
  4. Keep in mind that there was nothing wrong with bringing doves, sheep, and oxen to the temple…as long as they were brought by an individual coming to worship.  Again, the merchants in the temple were fleecing the people; the leadership was engaging in spiritual abuse.  We see the same sort of thing today.  We don’t have a physical temple nor a sacrificial system, but there are still corrupt church leaders and others who fleece the people of God in the name of “religion.”  It’s wrong.  Imagine a church charging admission simply to walk through the doors on a Sunday morning for worship.  Surely no church today would do such a thing.  How about selling so-called prayer cloths?  How about pushing the books and other materials upon the people with the “secrets” of true success and spirituality which you won’t ever know without buying it directly from the church?  How about guilting someone into giving a minimum 10% tithe (because the truly spiritual people give far more, don’t you know) just to ensure that they’ve given enough to stay in God’s good graces?  This is the same sort of spiritual abuse that Jesus publicly condemned in the temple, and it is seen almost every day on so-called Christian TV, and in many churches around the world. 
  5. And just like the corruption of Jesus’ day, it is done with the full knowledge of those in leadership.  The priests are not mentioned in John’s account, but there can be little doubt that this was done with their full approval.  There is simply no way any of this could have taken place on the temple grounds without the priests’ knowledge and approval.  If they had disagreed with the practice, it would have stopped long ago.  They personally allowed this corruption to come, and in all probability, they likely received a profit from it.
    1. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils, and that is just as true among the church as it is anywhere else.  Christian history is littered with corruption that was brought about by greed for land, money, and power.  In the Middle Ages, church positions were routinely bought and sold (the practice of simony) – special privileges were regularly given to wealthy church patrons (a practice that endures today even among many Protestant churches), and worse.  Even the promise of forgiveness & remission from temporary punishment has been put up for sale in the form of Catholic “indulgences” – something that is totally antithetical to the gospel.
  6. What should the Temple have been?  The “house” of Jesus’ “Father.”  This was the earthly building where God graciously chose to reveal His presence and glory.  This was seen at the dedication of the tabernacle and temple when the fire of God came down and consumed the initial sacrifice (Lev 9:24), and the smoke of God’s chabod glory filled the temple building (1 Kings 8:10-11).  It was a glorious privilege given to Israel that the Almighty Infinite God would choose to put His glory among them.  And in that holy place, they completely forgot the holiness and reverence.  They forgot their privilege, and forgot the whole point of their sacrifice was to come before GOD.  It wasn’t about killing the right kind of animal; it was about the holy worship of God, which God made possible through His grace.
    1. We don’t have a physical temple because WE are the temple of the Holy Spirit.  As born-again believers in Jesus Christ, God has graciously chosen to live within us both corporately as the Church (universal), and individually as Christians (1 Cor 3:16, 6:19).  Consider that for a minute.  GOD is in you.  Don’t get the wrong idea: it’s not that God is everywhere, or that we are part of a universal spirituality, or any other form of pantheism…that’s not what the Bible teaches at all.  But the Bible does say that God the Holy Spirit mysteriously dwells within born-again believers in Jesus Christ and that we are the temple of God.  We cannot forget the privilege.  We cannot forget the reverence.  When we sin against our physical bodies, we are sinning against the temple of God.  It’s doubtful that most of us would ever turn our physical bodies into a marketplace, but we might certainly abuse the body that has been entrusted to us by God.  Like the ancient temple of Jerusalem, we ought to use our bodies to worship and glorify God; not engage in carnal abuses or other sin.

17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”

  1. John doesn’t specify when the disciples remembered this Scripture, but at some point they did.  Thinking back to how Jesus zealously guarded the holiness of the temple (perhaps even after Jesus’ had cleansed the temple twice, and after His resurrection from the dead), they could see how Jesus fulfilled Psalm 69:9.  Psalm 69:9, "Because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me." []  Contextually, Psalm 69 is a prayer of David for salvation as he is surrounded by his enemies.  Many aspects (though not all) seem to be ultimately fulfilled in Jesus’ abandonment to the cross.  In the psalm, David was persecuted because of his love for God and stand for righteousness.  No doubt this was the case for Jesus.  The Jewish leaders saw His righteousness and His holy authority in His teaching, and they couldn’t stand it.  Jesus was not crucified because He was a sinner; He was sentenced to death because He showed Himself to be the Righteous Son of God.
    1. WE were the sinners!  And in that, we see Jesus’ great love for us.  The Righteous One died in our stead, and offers to give us His righteousness in grace.
  2. Jesus was indeed righteous, and that made Him zealous for the things of God.  It is good to be zealous in a good thing (Gal 4:18), and Jesus exemplified this.  Jesus was not some raging legalist, trying to force everyone into a rigid system.  He was passionate about true worship – right worship – the freedom for people to come to God in humility and worship Him in spirit and truth.  That’s something worth a bit of zeal!  (Be careful that we’re zealous for the right things…)

18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”

  1. It’s no wonder why the Jews asked this kind of question.  Jesus had bucked the system in a BIG way, and asserted His authority over that of the priests.  So what gave Jesus the right to do this?  Why should the people submit to Jesus’ actions, rather than have Him arrested and thrown into jail?  Of course, no one debated that Jesus did the right thing, or that the commerce in the temple was anything but corrupt.  They obviously all knew it was wrong, but it was still there at the approval of the priests.  To overthrow the judgment of the priests required an authority superior to the priests.  So they asked what Jesus would do to demonstrate His authority.
  2. Keep in mind that this is still at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  The apostle John has only shown Jesus performing one miracle, and that was done in private in front of the wedding servants, and performed in the far-away village of Cana in Galilee.  It’s possible that some people in Jerusalem had heard of Jesus through the ministry of John the Baptist, or perhaps having been present at Jesus’ baptism itself.  Even so, Jesus is not recorded having done much in public prior to this point.  If He was going to act with the authority of a prophet, then He needed to demonstrate the power of a prophet.
    1. This is where it is wise for us today to be like the Bereans in Acts 17 & search the Scriptures.  We will encounter all sorts of teachers who proclaim all kinds of doctrine, and it’s a good thing to check them out.  If someone claims to teach with authority, then we need to go to the ultimate authority to see if what they are saying is true.  That authority is the Bible.  A pastor’s ultimate credential is not found in the size of their church, or the amount of degrees they may possess, but in whether or not their teaching matches up with the word of God.
    2. That alone ought to have been enough for the Jews.  They readily recognized John the Baptist as a prophet, though he didn’t do a single miraculous work in their midst.  But it wasn’t unusual for Hebrew prophets to perform a confirming sign as proof of their authority from God, so that’s what they asked from Jesus.  And Jesus would give them one…

19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

  1. Jesus would not merely demonstrate the power of a prophet; He would demonstrate the power of God.  The Jews wanted proof – Jesus would give them proof: the resurrection. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  These words would be long-remembered by His enemies, and they would trot them out during His trial.  Yet in doing so, they misquote Jesus and twist what He actually said.  Matthew 26:59–61, "(59) Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, (60) but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward (61) and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ ”" []  Note that Jesus never claimed that HE would destroy the Jerusalem Temple; He said that THEY would destroy “this” temple, meaning the temple of His body (vs. 21).  Of course at the cross, that is exactly what they would do.  They would beat Jesus, scourge Jesus, and kill Him in one of the most painful methods ever devised in the evil imaginations of men.  His body would be “destroyed” in death, but He would not stay dead.  He would rise in “three days.”
  2. Notice who will raise the temple of Jesus’ body from the dead: Jesus. “I will raise it up.”  How powerful is Jesus?  Powerful enough to raise His own body from the dead!  Lazarus needed Jesus to come to him.  The widow’s son needed Elijah.  In the book of Acts, Dorcas needed Peter.  Jesus needed only Himself.  THAT’s power!
    1. Of course, Jesus acted alone, but as God, God is never truly alone because God is Trinity.  This is seen in the resurrection.  The Bible tells us that Jesus has the power to raise Himself (Jn 10:18).  It tells us that God the Father raised Him (Gal 1:1).  It tells us that God the Spirit raised Him (Rom 8:11).  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a unique act of the Triune Godhead.
    2. As a result, the resurrection is the ultimate proof of Jesus’ authority, because it is the definitive declaration that He is God.  Romans 1:3–4, "(3) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, (4) and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." []
  3. If Jesus’ resurrection proves He has authority over the Temple, then it proves He has authority over everything else.  He has authority to forgive sin – to grant eternal life – to make us children of God – to give the Holy Spirit, and more.  As Jesus said after His resurrection, “ALL authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Mt 28:18)  We serve the King of kings, and He has all authority and all power.

20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

  1. The Jews mocked Him and showed their basic misunderstanding of what Jesus had said.  Herod’s renovations of Zerubabbel’s temple had taken 46 years to this point.  (And they weren’t done yet. They would finish in 64AD…just a few short years before the Romans would tear it all down brick-by-brick.)  The structure itself was magnificent – impressive enough to still make an impact upon the disciples after seeing it many times throughout their lives (Mt 24:1).  Surely that massive building could not be torn down and raised in three days?!  Of course, if that is what Jesus had wanted to do, He could have done it.  That just wasn’t what He was saying at all.  Jesus didn’t speak of a building; He spoke of a “body.” Far more important than a physical temple is the body of the Lord Jesus.  For more difficult than reconstruction is resurrection.  Yet that is what Jesus promised, and that is exactly what He delivered.

22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

  1. As with Jesus’ zeal as it related to the psalms, the disciples also remembered this particular statement from Jesus.  No doubt what He said was confusing and mysterious at the time.  The disciples probably were thinking much the same thing as the rest of the Jews when Jesus said it.  There’s no reason at this point that they would have thought of anything else except the Jerusalem temple.  But after Jesus rose from the dead, everything changed.  They remembered Jesus’ words and understood what He had meant.  His earlier prophecy led to faith.
    1. They had already believed unto salvation; that isn’t the faith John refers to here.  Note again the timeframe: “when He had risen from the dead.”  The disciples expressed their initial faith in Jesus long before that (after meeting Jesus for the first time, Nathaniel already called Jesus the Son of God & King of Israel – 1:49), and after Jesus rose from the dead they most definitely believed.  It was in light of Jesus’ resurrection, as they thought back over their time with Jesus that all sorts of things that Jesus did and said took on new meaning.  Their faith was confirmed and strengthened by His words…exactly as they should have been.
    2. That’s one of the things prophecy does for us in general.  It strengthens our faith. …
  2. Notice they believed both the written word (the Scripture), and the spoken word (from Jesus), and that both are on the same level.  Jesus’ words carry the authority of Scripture because they are the words of God.  Just as Jesus repeatedly spoke of His resurrection, the Scriptures repeatedly prophesy the resurrection. (Ps 16:10 directly – many other indirectly.)  And those prophecies are true!
    1. Seeing the Scriptures fulfilled in the resurrection leads people to faith.  And that is the whole point. Have YOU seen & believed?

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.

  1. Jesus had promised the resurrection as the primary sign of His authority, but that obviously would not occur for several more years.  Thus Jesus did other “signs.”  What these miracles were, we don’t know, but they were enough to give birth to at least some faith among the people in Jerusalem.  People tend to get excited around displays of the power of God, and it was obviously no different with Jesus.  Jesus’ display of authority in the temple would have attracted much attention, and that attention is put to good use as Jesus gets His ministry underway.
  2. How strong the people’s faith was, we also don’t know.  It doesn’t seem to have been much…

24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, 25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

  1. Some people may have believed, but their hearts were wavering, and Jesus knew it.  He knew that many people would follow Him for a time, but leave Him later.  He knew that some came only for the healings, just like others would later follow Him only for the bread and fish.  Some came just for the show; not for a Savior.  As a result, their faith was only superficial.  It wouldn’t last long.
    1. The same thing happens today.  Many people get excited about miracles and other displays of power.  They get excited when they see the “next big thing” in churches, and they’ll follow it around from place to place.  But they’re seeking a feeling; not Jesus.  They’re seeking a show, and have no desire in actually serving Jesus.  As a result, they miss out on Jesus entirely.  Obviously there’s nothing wrong with miraculous acts of power (otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have done them!) – they can be quite helpful in opening someone’s eyes to faith.  But true enduring faith must be based on something more solid than an act of power; it must be based upon the God who makes that act possible in the first place.  There’s a difference between seeking the “power” or seeking the “glory” and actually seeking God.
  2. Don’t miss the fact that Jesus knew what was in their hearts.  Jesus knew who was sincere and who was not.  “He knew all men.”  That’s true generally speaking, in that Jesus knew basic human nature & the culture of the time – but it is also true individually.  Jesus knows us.  Jesus knows our faith, and what it is based upon.  Abraham Lincoln purportedly said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people of all the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”  However, when it comes to Jesus, you cannot fool Him at all.  Jesus is God, and He always knows what is in our hearts – He won’t be snowed by acts of religion or faked piety.
  3. The people needed to believe in Jesus’ authority, but Jesus didn’t need them to give credence to His authority.  Jesus wasn’t seeking the approval of men; He had the approval of God.

Jesus can assert His authority, because He HAS authority.  Jesus is God – something that would be proven over time to the Jews, but something that is proven to us directly in His resurrection.  That Jesus rose from the dead demonstrates that He has the right to speak to us at God, and be worshipped as God.

Do you believe?  Has the fulfillment of His resurrection led to faith?  If you haven’t, you can.  You’ve got the opportunity today to see Jesus as the glorious King that He is, and to put your faith and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins.  He has the authority to grant you forgiveness, and He alone can do it.  Look upon Him for who He is.  See Him as Almighty God, and trust Him as Lord.

If you believe, do you remember the privilege and reverence of worship?  It’s so easy to begin to take our privilege for granted.  Not only do we start to wander into the dangers of sin (be it against our physical bodies, or our minds), but we can so easily lose sight of the wonder it is to worship God in spirit and truth.  Jesus was zealous for house of God because it was a place of worship – may we also be zealous for the opportunity!

If you believe, do you do so in sincerity?  The disciples did, but apparently not everyone in Jerusalem did.  They followed Jesus for a time because they were thrilled by the show; not because they were clinging to a Savior.  Jesus knows what’s in your heart – and He can help change it, if you but ask Him.


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