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.
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
What Happened in Jerusalem?
How many times did Jesus go up to Jerusalem? The synoptic gospels paint a picture where Jerusalem is far from the action for much of the book. Jesus eventually is called to the centre of Jewish power and it kills him. However, John has Jesus visiting Jerusalem fairly early in his ministry. Did he drive out the traders in the temple once or twice? I would say that Jesus went to Jerusalem throughout his ministry and he made grand gestures there. This would explain more easily why people from Judea are coming to Galilee to check into him. Jesus did not drive out the money changers and the animals in the temple courts because he expected them to stay out. Jesus was making a symbolic gesture. He was stating that the system in Jerusalem was corrupt and that the Jewish sacrificial system itself would be overturned and replaced. His life and death would in reality overturn what he overturned symbolically. I believe he did this more than once to drive the message home. He did it early in his ministry, as we read here in John, and he did it again the day after Palm Sunday.
The question of signs is raised again and therefore a link is made between the signs and authority in this context. A sign would point to authority, Jesus produces no sign that the priests are aware of and so in their view he has no authority. However, he foreshadows his death and points to it as the ultimate sign. It is by their acceptance or denial of his sacrificial death that they will be judged, not by their reliance on a well-oiled sacrificial system that had become corrupt.
Finally, we have Jesus’ assessment of mankind. He doesn’t share the wild optimism of today’s humanism. He doesn’t think that deep down everyone is good. He thinks that mankind is corrupt and so he does not trust himself to be lifted up by them.
Jesus, you seem both confident and isolated at this time. Your own sanctity sets you apart from the religious masses. The people were following rules and a system, but the system was killing the spiritual heart of your chosen people. I feel there are parallels today. We have those who are very casual about you and don’t really follow you with fervour. However, I am more often among those who condemn each other for falling short and set up neat systems of discipleship or condemn others for not reading the Bible correctly. We do so much still to prove that we are alright apart from a dynamic relationship with you, however we only find rest when we rest in you.
- What does Jesus do in this passage?
- How many times did Jesus visit Jerusalem and wreck the trading for the day?
- What was his point?
- How do people develop little systems in the name of Christianity that bypass their daily need for the cross?
- How does Jesus overturn the tables of those whose lives have been ease and comfort?