Sermon: Cleansing the Temple, Jesus’ Second Sign John 2:13-22

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Cleansing the Temple, Jesus’ Second Sign

John 2:13-22

Primary Truth Taught- Cleansing the temple fulfills messianic prophecy by restoring the true worship of the Father.

Many of us have, no doubt, seen portrayals of Jesus. Often He is shown as gentle Jesus, meek and mild. He’s pictured as weak and wimpy. The real Jesus as displayed for us vividly in the Bible is quite different than the portrayals, He’s a man’s man. He is strong, aggressive and at times even violent. When His Father’s honor was at stake, He was especially aggressive. We’ll see an event in this passage that shows us where Jesus’ loyalty lies. We’ll see His passion for true and pure worship of the Father. We’ll see how He reacts to correct matters.

I pray this passage expands our view of Jesus while meek and mild is part of the picture, strong and violent is the other.

Here in John 2:13-22 Jesus accomplishes His second sign, cleansing of the Temple.

John 20:30–31 (ESV)

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Remember a sign is an event John records which gave credit to Jesus’ claims as the Divine Messiah and helped instill belief in His followers.

In our text today, Jesus doesn’t perform a miracle as He did when He turned water into wine. This is not a miracle that shows who Jesus is but this is an event that shows who Jesus is.

Human Need Met

Worshipping God accurately and purely is of the utmost importance. This text meets the need we have to see how precious it is to worship God. I pray this text shows us again how important true worship is. I pray also we see the need to always be refining and reforming our worship practices to be more in line with the Scriptures.

John 2:13–22 (ESV)

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 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. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then 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 about the temple of his body. 22 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.

  1. A Passion for True Worship

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 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. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

What about this temple? It wasn’t Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 6-7). It wasn’t the second Temple built after the Babylonian Captivity in Ezra and Nehemiah’s days. This is the third Temple that was built by King Herod. Construction started somewhere around 19BC and wasn’t completed until around 64AD. This was the Temple that was destroyed in 70AD by the Romans.

John begins by telling us the reason Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He did so because this celebration of Passover was a time when God’s power and protection of the Hebrews in Egypt was commemorated. He did so because God commanded the Passover celebration. He did so because this was an opportunity to worship God.

This is the first Passover Jesus would attend after His public ministry started. He would attend two more, the third being at His own crucifixion.

The point Jesus makes at this, the first Passover, is His passion or zeal for pure worship. I think we can imagine the anticipation the worshipper had during these days of the Passover celebration.

Passover was one of the pilgrimage celebrations. This means that worshippers would make their way to Jerusalem to the Temple to make the sacrificial offering and worship God (Lev 23:4-14; Num 9:2-5; 28:16-25; Deut 16:1-8). Along the way often the Psalms were sung also commemorating God’s deliverance during the Passover.

It’s very interesting that the Lamb of God would come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Jesus did this every year. Luke records one of the trips Jesus made with His family when He was young. Now, it’s different, He comes as an adult worshipper.

It’s so important that children attend worship with their parents and even more important that they do so as adults. I’ve watched a number of children over the years attend church services with their parents but then when they are adults, it seems their commitment levels are far too often less than their parents or even nonexistent. Children, when you become adults remember you are accountable to God for your own families. Seek to have the passion for worship our Lord has. Desire a white hot zeal for true worship.

One thing we see here is Jesus’ consistency to join others in worship. Many like to draw a distinction between Temple worship and what we do every Sunday. In reality, however, they are very similar. The main differences are we don’t offer a sacrifice because we have the ultimate, once for all sacrifice of Jesus as the Lamb of God. Still, however, a sacrifice for sin was needed. We don’t have the Temple because as the Bible clearly tells us that we, the people of God, are the Temple.

1 Peter 2:4–5 (ESV)

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

There may be a few differences but in reality what we do is the same. We gather together as one people to worship God through Jesus Christ. As the early worshippers were commanded to gather at the temple for worship, we too are commanded to gather for worship.

Hebrews 10:24–25 (ESV)

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

I pray we view our congregating together for worship as a joyous occasion. The pilgrimage God has called us to make is weekly to join together in worship.

What did Jesus find when the trek to the Temple was complete? He didn’t find worshippers but a market setting, which included buying, selling, bartering, and taking advantage of the poor. He saw the glory of His Father’s house turned into a place where those who had set up trade within the Temple grounds cheated the poor worshippers. He saw selling and bartering not worship. He saw great profit not great praise. Jesus’ blood began to boil. His holy anger was stirred up. His zeal for His Father’s worship consumed Him.

The outer courtyard area of the Temple was known as the Court of the Gentiles because this was as close to the Temple as an unclean Gentile could get. Now, lets be clear here…we are the unclean Gentiles! If we would have lived in those days and been Converts to Judaism, we could have made our way to the courtyard area but no further. There was a problem…there would not have been any room in the courtyard for Gentile worshippers because that’s where all the moneychangers had their booths set up.

Here’s what was really going on as worshippers gathered…

The pilgrims coming to the Temple learned that their spotless lambs were never spotless enough. Their sacrificial lambs, no matter how spotless and without blemish would never qualify because those set up in the courtyard had their lambs for sell. They had the authority of the Jewish leadership to do so. The principle of supply and demand came into effect. You need a spotless lamb for the sacrifice and yours even though it looks better than these lambs still isn’t good enough. So, you’re forced to purchase a very expensive lamb at whatever the going rate is, and it was usually very expensive.

Oh, and there was the Temple Tax that had to be paid at Passover. Here, even though you brought money with you, your own currency wasn’t good enough. The Temple Tax had to be paid in pure Tyrian coins of sound weight. Of course the moneychangers also charged a fee to exchange your currency for the Temple currency.

Jesus was sick and tired of witnessing these swindlers taking advantage of the people. He was sick and tired of the worship of God being defamed by crooks. So, He makes a whip and goes to work.

15 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. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

Can you imagine the commotion and the dust storm rising from the Temple courts that day. Lambs were running loose and coins were rolling all over the courtyard…and those engaged in profiting from the poor worshippers were running for their lives. It wasn’t and army or a gathering of the local magistrates but one man, with a passion for His Father, with a whip.

The Temple was to be the place where people joined together to worship God, to pray, and where the Bible was to be read and preached. No one could hear the sermon for the bidding wars outside.

We must see something here. Jesus’ anger was not a sinful anger like ours.   We become angry when we are wronged but Jesus got angry when His Father was wronged. Make no mistake this was God’s wrath and judgment toward those who were profiting from the poor while worship should have been going on.

This very event was prophesied in the OT Book of Malachi…
Malachi 3:1–3 (ESV)

“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. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.

Now to go a little deeper in what Jesus was doing is to see that He is destroying the idolatry that was taking place in the Temple. In a very real sense, these moneychangers and sellers of sacrificial animals were perverting the true worship of God. They were exchanging love for God for idol worship and specifically the love of money, covetousness. All this system of making money was shrouded under a cloak of religion and the Jews sanctioned all this. They too were in on it.

The issue came down to this for Jesus: would God be worshipped in the Temple or would money be worshipped in the Temple?

We must be on guard because the love of money is the root of all evil and it doesn’t get any more evil than to pretend to worship God while your heart is fixed upon money.

I want you to see just how easily the human heart is turned to the love of money over the love for God…

Mark 7:9–13 (ESV)

And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Do you see how they veiled the fact that the money they had which could have went to help their parents in the old age they took it and “gave it to the church”? These were Pharisees who were to receive the benefits of the money.

Jesus was furious with the Pharisees.

When the pure worship of God is demeaned He does not receive the glory and honor do His name. When people add things to the worship of God, whether it be setting up bartering tables in the Temple or some man-centered culturally driven act of worship they are defaming God’s name.

I pray that as we see through the Bible, the passion Jesus had for pure worship that we too would be passionate for true and pure worship as well. So, the first thing to remember is that true worship is not what you think worship is but what God thinks. It’s not what you desire to do but what God desires.

I know many Christian groups go outside of what God desires worship to be. I’ve heard terms like “freedom of worship” and by this they mean pretty much anything goes. I’ve heard of mislead ideas such as, why do we need preaching, let’s just sing praise songs throughout the service. We must be careful to formulate our worship whether it’s public, as in the Temple setting or personal worship when you’re at home, it must be conformed to God’s standards not men’s standards.

  1. Our Lord’s Authority Over True Worship

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then 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 about the temple of his body. 22 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.

I want us to see the dynamic at work here. These practices had been going on so long in the Temple that when Jesus sets things right, He’s now the bad guy. In other words, when Jesus removes the practices that were wrong, because these were tradition, Jesus was seen as wrong.

We can do wrong things so long that we get used to them and think they’re right. We can even believe wrong things for so long that we reject the truth because it’s different and we’ve never heard it before and it seems wrong.

That’s what was going on here. Those who were in charge, the Jews, said basically, who do you think you are? What gives You the right to do what you’ve just done?

This act of cleansing the Temple had great ramifications for Jesus. It was clearly taught that when the Messiah comes, He would correct the misguided worship of Israel.

Zechariah 14:21 (ESV)

21 And every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holy to the Lord of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the meat of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day.

Jesus’ response placed Him in the driver’s seat. He declares a universal truth to these Jews when they question Him. Granted, it was veiled in generalities and few if any really understood His meaning.

It wasn’t until after the resurrection that the disciples then remembered what Jesus tells them here and they believe.

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

After the resurrection the disciples got it…and they believed.

So, this sign had a delayed fulfillment. It didn’t click with the disciples until after Jesus was raised from the grave.

Application

Today, I want to ask you the question…

How passionate are you for true corporate worship? Is it something to do when nothing better is going on? Or do you find yourself anticipating and praying for the Sunday services? Are you excited to worship the Father in spirit and in truth or are you simply going through the motions?

The answer you give is really one that exposes your heart before God.

Public worship begins with private worship…when you pray and read the Word daily you are preparing yourself to meet publically.

Paul even tells us that obedience to God is private worship…

Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

Children’s Homework

Next week we’re planning to cover John 2:23-25, in these verses John tells us that many people were believing in his name. What does it mean to believe in his name? What do these verses tell us that was causing/helping them to believe? Can you write down the verses we’ve been mentioning about every week concerning the signs Jesus did? (hint: John 20…)

 

Declaration of Grace

In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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