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JOHN - The Light Shines in the Darkness
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to John
PART 1 - The Shining of the Divine Light (John 1:1 - 4:54)
C - Christ's First Visit to Jerusalem (John 2:13 - 4:54) -- What is True Worship?

1. The cleansing of the Temple (John 2:13-22)

JOHN 2:13-17
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the temple those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting. 15 He made a whip of cords, and threw all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew their tables. 16 To those who sold the doves, he said, “Take these things out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will eat me up.”

Jesus went up to Jerusalem on the occasion of the great feast – the Passover, where hundreds of thousands of Jews would assemble from all over the world to sacrifice lambs, in remembrance of the fact that the wrath of God spared their people because of the Passover Lamb. So without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. And without reconciliation, worship is pointless. Thus Jesus took up the sin of the world in the symbol of baptism at the river Jordan. On their behalf he would also accept the baptism of death, a sign that he would bear the wrath of God. He knew for sure that he was the chosen Lamb of God.

When he entered the city and made his way to the temple court, He was not impressed by the splendor of the building, but was pondering the salvation of mankind by means of his sacrifice. Surprisingly, he found no sense of calm in that temple for worship. What he found was dust and clamor, the mooing of cows and the wrangling of the traders and the bleeding of the animals. He also heard the cries of money changers who were exchanging foreign currency into Jewish money, for pilgrims to pay their dues.

The noises in the temple indicated a belief that righteousness could be bought by money and special efforts. The pilgrims assumed that grace and righteousness were to be purchased by rituals and contributions, not yet aware that salvation could not be gotten by good works.

At this Jesus showed his righteous indignation. Zeal for true worship drove him to throw out the traders in livestock and scatter their money in the dust. We do not read that he struck anyone, but his voice spoke of the blows that God would inflict on those who would not yield before His majesty. There is no piety on earth that pleases God, apart from broken hearts surrendering to the Holy One.

Jesus grieved over the indifference of men towards the holiness of God. Such neglect and ignorance seen in superficial religiosity shows the darkness that shrouds hearts and minds, even though the Law had been given 1300 years before. At this, Jesus demonstrated divine wrath and holy zeal to cleanse this center of worship. The center reflected the condition of the whole. He demanded the reform for the core of religion, for a radical change in man’s attitude to God.

JOHN 2:18-22
18 The Jews therefore answered him, “What sign do you show us, seeing that you do these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple! Will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he spoke of the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this, and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

The priests knew about the cleansing of the temple and the wails of the traders, so they rushed to Jesus and asked, "Who gave you the right to do this? Who sent you? Give us solid proof for your authority." They did not object to the cleansing; they felt that Jesus was not acting out of human anger, but out of holy zeal for the honor of God’s house, to bring back the Spirit of worship in truth for the multitude; rather they wished to ascertain the reasons and motives that moved him. So Jesus became a foe in their eyes, because he sought to reform the temple without recourse to their priestly organizations.

Jesus rebuked them for their hypocritical worship, because they preferred the tumult of worshippers en masse, and the power of wealth to the calm of God’s presence. With foresight Jesus saw the destruction of the temple as a result of superficial worship and their ignorance. Organized religious rites and preset motions do not save men, rather it is the change of hearts by God’s saving truth that transforms.

This saving presence was incarnate standing in their midst. Jesus is the true Temple and God was in Christ present there. As if Jesus was saying, "Destroy the temple of my body because you cannot stand my zeal for God. You will do the impossible and wreck this Temple, but I will raise that body in three days; I will arise from the tomb. You will kill me, but I am alive, for I am Life itself, God in the flesh. You cannot kill me." Thus did Jesus proclaim his resurrection implicitly. This resurrection is to the present day the greatest of his miracles.

Delegates from the high priest did not understand this parable about the temple. They stared at the marble columns and gilded domes, and assumed that Jesus had blasphemed at the divine dwelling place, built by Herod during 46 years. They spoke of stones; he meant his body. These essential discussions at the start of his ministry emerged once more at his trial before the Sanhedrin twisted them with the help of false witnesses.

Clearly the Old Testament people failed to grasp the sense of the new faith which Christ initiated. Not even the disciples understood the deeper meanings of this new religion until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then they realized how the Son had atoned for sins and rose again.

Today he is with us in the spiritual Temple of which we are living stones. The Holy Spirit illumined the disciples to discover in the ancient Scriptures meanings that were illumined in the saying of Jesus. They stayed firm in the faith and together became God’s Holy Temple.

PRAYER: O Lord Jesus, you are God’s dwelling place, and the meeting point of God and sinners. Help us to practice repentance and worship and to be filled with your fullness, so that we may be together the Temple of the Holy Ghost, and magnify the Father at all times.


  1. Why did Jesus visit the temple and drive out the traders?


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