The First Temple Cleansing
[bookmarks] Some debate over this passage since other gospels talk about temple cleansing that happens right before Jesus arrested. John speaks here about temple cleansing early on in Jesus’ ministry.
So how reconcile? Carefully examine both accounts. Aside from the main act - driving merchants out of the temple - number of differences between the two. Jesus says different things and does some additional things in other gospels’ account of temple cleansing compared to John’s account.
All of this highly suggests were two temple cleansings done by Jesus. John records first one, other gospels record last one. Considering how power and money hungry the religious leaders were back then, no surprise that Jesus had to do this twice during his ministry! [read passage, prayer]
Our passage begins quietly enough. Jesus and his disciples come into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. But certainly ends in very bold way. This first passage where becomes clear that ministry of Jesus not going be quiet one. This where Jesus begins to become thorn in side of Jewish establishment. Up to this point might get impression that Jesus’ ministry going be nice and safe. Religious leaders would have loved for Jesus stay in background, become bootlegger Jesus, just making wine for people.
Now we see that Jesus’ ministry is by no means going to be secret. It will involve confrontation. Why does Jesus do this? Will answer that question by first examining the main reason given to us for his actions. But also learn from the sign that stands behind his actions.
But ultimately, in answering this question what hope will help us do is get better understanding about what worship truly is. All people worship……question is, who are you giving your worship to. Message of the Bible is that worship which you naturally created to give only really works when it is given to God.
True Christian church then is supposed to help teach people to rightly worship God and build a community that helps facilitate right worship of God. So look around today, and we got whole industry around worship. In fact, “worship” in Christian world is effect a product, a style, a vague mystical feeling you get depending on the lighting and the chords and spontaneity of the musicians. It’s become an event, a concert, a performance. It’s about being modern or traditional or charismatic. Think about it – we now speak of “worship,” as single word, when in fact is word that always requires direct object. We should speak of worship of God. But the “of God” been neatly cut out.
Believe we need have a serious reorientation towards biblical view on worship. That’s what hope accomplish today and then explore even more when get to John 4.
But, before can properly explore what Jesus does and what it should begin to tell us about worship, what will need to first do is help us get sense of the significance and importance of the temple in Jesus’ day.
Temple center of worship for ancient Jewish society. In fact, was at center of all Jewish life - political, social, religious.
Got couple images here, most of them come from joint project by Israel Antiquities Authority and the Urban Simulation Team at UCLA. Help you get sense of what would been like to go into the temple.
[CLICK] Most people entered, exited Temple from south. Come from large plaza, go up broad stairway. [2 CLICKS] Straight ahead is Double Gate. Go up stairs, along the way were ritual baths so people could first purify themselves. Eventually enter large plaza, the Court of the Gentiles.
[CLICK - Plaza] With this image hope get sense what been like to stand there. Large open area, surrounded by pillared porticos (they are like wide outdoor hallway bordered by pillars). In porticos could find teachers publicly speaking or debating. Early Christian church held its first public worship services in one of the porticos. Acts 5 - Met in Solomon’s Portico, which on the east side. Did this of course along with regular meetings at people’s homes. Incidentally, it is this ancient format of both large public meeting and smaller private meetings that this church structured on.
As stood in this large plaza before would be Temple structure itself. Could see smoke [show this on image]. Would be coming from sacrifices being burned on altar in front of main temple structure.
Some other views of this [CLICK] Note here the gate entrances. [CLICK] Enter temple structure itself, would first be in courtyard called the Court of the Women. All Jews including women could come in here. But was off-limits to Gentiles on pain of death. Only Jewish men could from here into next courtyard, the Court of the Israelites. In this court was the altar stood. No one but priests could continue on to enter Temple building itself.
Jewish historian Josephus writes that to approaching visitors temple appeared as a “mountain of snow” as sunlight reflected off of it. On a clear day could see temple from many miles away.
Temple obviously very impressive place. No surprise then that occupied the central place within ancient Jewish society. Source of religious and national pride. Here was the place that was God’s home. The one unique place on earth where God himself dwelled. Was place expressly built to facilitate worship.
Coming into main temple plaza, might expect environment conducive to reverent worship. This though not what Jesus experienced when come onto the temple plaza.
[CLICK – Artistic pic] The scene instead was like an open air flea market. Imagine an ancient First Friday, but a lot smellier and nosier. So imagine now, preparing to come and worship God. You walk out into the plaza and you are greeted with sounds of animals mooing and bleating, of merchants and customers haggling, the smells of animal sweat and excrement.
All this came about through the religious establishment. Each year had hundreds of thousands of pilgrims coming to Jerusalem. Since many people were coming from far away, was inconvenient to bring their sacrificial animals with them. Normally they did was buy what they needed at various places within Jerusalem. But religious leaders saw an opportunity here. They had merchants set up within the temple proper itself, in the outer court of the Gentiles. Talking instant monopoly here. And then on special occasions, like Passover, talking lot of potential profit. Worship of God was big business. Through all this temple establishment able collect great amount of money to help further beautify the temple structure and cover various administrative affairs.
Jesus outraged. John 2:14-16 - 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. Jesus drives everybody out – the merchants, the money-changers, all their animals. Then for good measure he flips over a couple of tables.
Then v.16 gives us reason behind Jesus’ actions. Think carefully about what he says. [CLICK]  And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade."
The temple should be a place for prayer. Instead place of noise and bustle. Should be a place to encourage confession of sin, reverent praise of God. Instead was place guided by marketing strategies and consumerism. Worship been superceded by convenience and expediency.
These practices were also blatant insensitivity and subtle racist. Remember, Gentile Court only place that non-Jews could come to worship. But their place for worship taken over for sake of commerce. Meant that only Jews had place for unhindered worship. No decent place for Gentiles to engage in worship.
It is all this crass irreverence for God that compels Jesus do what he did. Temple is the house of his Father! As the Son of God, he is then driven to defend his Father and act when he sees his Father being disrespected in this way.
v.17 tells us that as the disciples watched this they couldn’t help but think of Ps 69:9, a passage where David speaks of his all consuming zeal for the house of God. They saw in Jesus this same kind of devotion for God. From the very beginning Jesus was someone passionate that God be rightly worshipped.
Well, now is good time to jump back to our time and ask ourselves this question - does our worship today imitate way these Jews worshipped back then? Do we have reverence and awe of God? Or is our worship marked by what most practical or convenient? Like the way one writer put it. He asks this - if Jesus were to how up within a local church today, would he make a whip out of pew rope or would he praise God for what is happening there?
Our tendency is to worship worship, isn’t it? And we still driven by expediency and practicality and profit. If we honest we will see that our worship is influenced much more by strategic plans than by Scripture. It is motivated much more towards drawing in more people so that can have bigger budget and bigger building as opposed to looking to draw closer to God so that we can bigger, full sense of his holiness and his righteousness and his glory manifested within our community.
May God not strike us all down right now for building communities where worship is marketable product instead of communities where worship is means communing with an awesome mighty God! What Jesus was passionate about, what we must be passionate about, is worship of God that is true and pure and deep and full. This is worship that is reverent, that truly fears and honors God as God!
Let’s go back to the 1st century and to our passage. Naturally Jesus’ actions attracted attention. Obvious that Jesus was directly challenging the whole temple system. It’s the kind of bold action a Messiah would do. So Jewish leaders approach him and ask him in v.18, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”
They demand a sign that would show that he had the messianic authority to do all this. They not really interested in cleaning up their act right now. Much more interested in seeing what kind of street cred this Jesus has. Want to see Jesus do something cool, massive, impressive. “Do something Jesus, then we might believe in you.”
Well, there was a sign to see behind Jesus’ actions. But was not one they were thinking of. [The main sign behind Jesus’ actions] v.19 - Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
Jewish leaders don’t know what to do with this. Took 46 years to build the temple. And in fact, even at that time they still working on it. So they dismissive. “You telling us to destroy this temple, temple that we’ve been building for 46 years. And you going to raise it back up in three days?” Absurd.
These Jewish leaders missed the deeper truth behind Jesus’ words. v.21 reveals what this deeper truth was. Jesus was not speaking of the physical temple but of the temple of his body. Jesus speaks of what will happen in the future. Religious authorities would eventually arrest him, try him under false charges, then kill him, thinking that they had rid of him for good. But then three days later, he would raise up what they tried to break down, by rising from the dead, alive with new body.
Only after all that has happened do the disciples remember and begin to understand what Jesus saying and what he was seeking to accomplishing. Jewish authorities thought Jesus talking about constructing new building. What Jesus was in fact talking about was constructing new way for God to be with people and for people to be with God.
This is new and better worship of God. Old form of worship, centered on physical temple, was giving way to new form of worship, a worship “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4), a worship mediated by and centered on Jesus.
Jesus himself says in Matt 12:6 that “something greater than the temple is here.” Shocking statement, considering how important the temple was in ancient Jewish culture. How could something greater than the temple be here? Something greater could be here because in Jesus God fully shows us his glory in a way that the temple never could.
Whole temple system and all practices associated with it had within them built-in expectation for greater and better temple to come, in which worship of come would be pure and wholistic, not confined to the external but written upon the heart.
Jesus’ actions and words directly allude to this. He says, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” This is allusion allude back to passages like prophetic passages like Mal 3:1-3 and Zech 14:20-21, passages that speak of time to come when worship be pure and clean. No longer would there a merchant or in fact anyone who was spiritually unclean in the house of God. In fact no longer be need for special ritual arrangements, no longer any walls or gates separating people from one another and from the Holy of Holies.
Instead access to God and membership among God’s people now available to all people in and through Jesus and the new temple of his body. In this new temple, all peoples stand on common ground, shoulder to shoulder, and all peoples able truly know, worship God, just as were originally created to do. Means we can commune with God and thus worship more truly, more fully, more deeply than ever before.
This new and better worship come at great price. “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Jesus’ passion for God and for right worship of God literally lead to him being consumed by death on the cross.
But even death could not totally obliterate Jesus. Jesus rose from the dead and conquered even death. That same conquering resurrection power that
Spoke earlier about not worshipping worship but worship God as he is meant to be worshipped. But here this clearly - without the cross and without the resurrection, the pure, reverent, passionate worship of God that we should give God would be entirely impossible! Let’s be honest. We will always and inevitably tend to drift away from right worship of God. Our worship inevitably degrades, becomes more self-centered, more superficial. Becomes more segregated along racial or cultural lines.
But when we trust in Jesus, when we believe that in his death our sins were atoned for, that in his resurrection, our lives were reclaimed and redefined, when we trust in and believe in these things, we can worship God in the way we should. We can speak truly of being in God’s presence, and not just in one place and on certain days or with certain people. We can speak of being in his presence always. We can speak truly of being in communion with God, and not just in certain settings or because of certain feelings. We can speak of being in communion with God always, without ceasing.
Can speak of these things because of Jesus and what he accomplished on our behalf thousands of years ago. As says in 2 Cor 3:18, we now with unveiled face can behold the glory of Lord.
Later on, we do see physical temple that was in Jerusalem destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Sad because whole temple complex had been finally been completed only seven years earlier. But we should not think that means temple is gone. Worship of God is even more resonant for us now, because now located in Jesus.
Like the Spirit did with the disciples, my prayer is that He would unpack these truths from Scripture. For some of you, apprehending this for first time. May it be sweet fragrance that lead you to faith in Christ and thus true worship of God.
Others, you’ve allowed ourselves to forgot, Spirit needs help you remember again. As remember, may your faith in Jesus be fortified and strengthened. May lead to such a powerful community of worship that anyone who comes among us soon finds themselves saying, “God is really among you!”