preaching study: john 2:13-25, pt 2

 All Scripture quotes are from the TNIV unless otherwise noted.
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I began studying John 2:13-25 here. Here are some further thoughts about John’s version of Jesus’ actions in the Temple courts. 

First, Jesus’ words to the dove-sellers in v16 are noteworthy for figuring out what’s going on here: “Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 

To point out the obvious, Jesus draws a clear contrast between the Temple and the marketplace. I think this is saying more about the purpose of the Temple than about the persons selling livestock and exchanging money. They were, after all, performing a service that assisting the Temple in being the Temple for folks. Some persons needed an appropriate sacrifice to bring to the Temple in order to worship properly. Some (many?) of those folks were poor and needed the service that the sellers provided. Also, persons whose local currency did not match what was used in the Temple would have appreciated the money-changers’ service, helping them exchange their currency for one that was useful in the Temple. 

Nonetheless, Jesus’ “zeal for [God’s] house” has consumed him (as the disciples remember later). Jesus’ words in v16 allude to Zechariah 14:20-21, especially the last phrase of those verses (and the book): “And on that day there will no longer be a merchant in the house of the Lord Almighty” (though the TNIV says “Canaanite” instead of “merchant,” merchant seems to be the better reading, and one that is shared by the NRSV and The Message). Zechariah was a prophet in Israel who led the people in rebuilding the Temple. He emphasized purity and devotion to God, marking everything as “Holy to the Lord,” in other words, ‘”fully devoted to God.” 

In the context of Zechariah, we can see the continued significance of Jesus’ response to the request for a sign. Jesus seems to continue his imaginative drawing upon Jewish history: Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up again in three days. Perhaps the point is related to what Zechariah was saying: when the Temple is rebuilt, it will be truly “Holy to God” or “fully devoted to God” because the person of Jesus is the new Temple. 

The Temple was the place where persons could encounter the presense of God, where heaven and earth touch or overlap, to use NT Wright’s way of talking about it. God is everywhere, but God is present in the Temple in a uniquely powerful way, unlike anywhere else (see Solomon’s prayer of dedication in 1 Kings 8 and 2 Chronicles 6, esp. vv40-42). So, here, as Jesus cleanses the Temple, his answer in v19 seems to suggest that he himself is the Temple’s replacement as well. 

Thoughts?

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3 thoughts on “preaching study: john 2:13-25, pt 2

  1. Is there a sense in which God cleanses any place that his spirit is supposed to dwell? Are we supposed to be Temples of the Holy spirit? How does God cleanse us?

    My sermon on this passage this Sunday is on Jesus as judge… so I’m already a bit skewed here, thinking about how God wants to throw out anything in our lives that’s not accomplishing his purposes there. Even if they may serve a purpose (like selling things that are needed for sacrifice and changing money) – if they aren’t up to the standard of his high purpose, they have to go.

    Again – I’m jumping to application. You do a much better job than I of doing one of those annoying reflection papers we used to have to turn in for Joel. Annoying because I never knew if I had done well until he graded it. My hardest work sometimes got a low grade – and vice versa!

  2. Thanks for both comments on these, Jes. Please jump to application!

    The cleansing and its connection to the emphasis on holiness in Zechariah points me towards cleansing as it relates to us and God’s desire for our holiness (see 1 Peter 1-2, among other places).

    I’ve wondered lately, in light of our modern allergy toward judgment (disguised as a disdain for judgmentalism), how a non-judging god would be worthy of worship and devotion? God’s judgment of me is a perfect expression of his love for me. So also with the Temple here in John: zeal for the Father’s house consumed Jesus. His love for the Temple was the genesis of his judgment upon the practices as the Temple, and in John, his replacement of the Temple.

    The theological (and therefore, practical application) implications of this seem to invite us to reckon with an image of the Temple-presence of God not being confined and managable in a set location (thus, Bart or Homer Simpson’s comment in the “save me, Jebus” episode—something about having built a nice box/cage for God? I want to look up that quote…), but now out on the loose, on the move. The presence that was available to the people in the Temple is now out cleansing the Temple. The Temple-presence that was located in Jerusalem, offering encounter with God is now out itinerating–no longer located, but instead locating. Locating himself among us: “the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

    What are we to do with the Temple-presence when it’s no longer a building that we go to, but a person who comes to (after) us? And comes to cleanse us because Christ will be “in [us], the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27)?

    Thanks for jogging my thinking on this, friend!

  3. I don’t have to preach on this, but I’ve been reflecting on it all week. I am with N.T. Wright in seeing what Jesus did as totally shocking to the Jews at the time, particularly the Sadducees who were in charge of the temple. They thought it followed, as night followed day, that if you had a sacrificial worship system, you had to have a market in which to buy and sell the animals. But Jesus’ point of view is NO! Not in the temple precincts you don’t. It should make us look carefully at our taken-for-granted ways of doing things, to see if maybe we have become accustomed to, and accepted the unacceptable.

    Secondly, I have thought how Jesus’ comments on this occasion would have been such a blessing to the Jewish people after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, if only they had beleieved in him. Like the early Christians, they could have moved on, and realised that they themselves had become a temple made of what St Peter calles “living stones”, with Jesus as the keystone. This is one of history’s great tragedies, and should make us keen to draw alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters, and try to share with them as tactfully as possible the good news that is theirs by right as much as it is ours.

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