encouragement theology Uncategorized

The Corrupted Worship

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 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. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Malachi 3:1-2

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

I am often reminded of a familiar picture of Jesus: he is wearing a spotless robe with a purple sash, looking sweetly and serenely into the distance.  These next events in John’s account show Jesus to be anything but sweet and serene. One of Jesus’ first public acts is to go into the temple and directly confront the corruption within the current religious system [2].  Jesus also fulfills the prophecy of Malachi 3:1, where the Messiah is promised to “suddenly come to his temple”.

 Passover was the greatest of the Jewish celebrations.  Jews from all over the world would congregate in Jerusalem in order to make a sacrifice in the temple at this time.

The temple was led by a ruthless group of priests at this time.  Led by Annas, the former high priest (and father-in-law to the current high priest), they had devised a system to make a massive profit off of the Passover pilgrims.  Most notably, their profit came in two ways:

  • All sacrifices must be certified as clean by the priests.  The priests would sit in the outer court of the temple and check each animal that was brought in for a sacrifice.  At this time, the priests would require the pilgrims to buy or trade their animals from only the local certified merchants.  The certified merchants would charge a huge markup, thus forcing the pilgrims to pay much more for what they already had.
  • All Jewish men were required by law to pay a temple tax.  This tax must be paid in the local currency and with exact change.  The traveling pilgrims would have a large variety of different currencies (both local and foreign) so the money changers would be available to convert to local currency and make change.  The abuse of this tax came in with the hume fees that the temple changers would charge in order to both convert currencies and to make change.

It is important to know that many of the local Jews hated the temple priests and they way they had corrupted their system of worship.  When Jesus cleansed the temple of these abuses, he gained instant popularity with the local Jews who also despised the corrupt priests in the temple.  While he had made enemies with the priestly leadership, his fame among the people would have protected him from any revenge from the priests for his actions. [1]

 In this brief scene, Jesus makes the statement twice that he is the Messiah.  First, he does the actions of the Messiah as predicted by Malachi.  He comes suddenly and purifies his temple.  This statement would not have been lost on his religious listeners, who knew the Old Testament prophets very well.  This was already a sign for the Jews yet they demanded more.

His second statement would only be understood by his disciples, and only much later.  Jesus promises that if they destroy this temple, he would raise it up on the third day.  The will try to destroy him, yet Jesus will triumph [1].  Even here at the start of his ministry, we see Jesus giving a message of hope that will only be received much later.


John 2:23-25

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

 The same original word Is used here for both “believe” and “entrust”. A better translation of this second sentence would read, “But Jesus on his part was not committing himself to them…”  Many people believed in Jesus when the saw his signs in Jerusalem. But Jesus knew that their beliefs were shallow and short-lived. Therefore he did not commit to them.

Jesus is reserving the core of his message to only those who believe.  This happened earlier in Cana (John 2:11), but it happens even more in this scene.  Jesus provides an invitation for all men, but he is looking for more than those with a passing fancy, or for those who are merely excited about what they have seen.  Jesus is looking for those who truly believe him and will completely trust him.

Previous Post: The Wedding Miracle

[1] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Section III, “The Ascent”, Chapter v.

[2] Some commentators have tried to combine the events in John 2 with the scene of Jesus cleansing the temple in the other gospel accounts (Matt 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–18, Luke 19:45–46).  However, the cleansing in John’s account occurs at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry while the cleansing in the other gospel accounts occur at the end of his ministry.  The events described in the two narratives are different, as are Jesus’ words and the reactions of the priests.  Therefore, these two narratives are best understood as two separate events: Jesus cleanses the temple (John 2) as an opening statement when he starts his ministry and he then cleanses the temple again (Matt 21, Mark 11, Luke 19) as one of his final acts at the close of his ministry.

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