John 2:13-25 | Cleansing the Temple
Yeshua often emphasized the importance of meekness and humility, and in His greatest time of trial He demonstrated these qualities like nobody else has. The account in today’s passage teaches some very important lessons about what humility is not, and the importance of standing firmly for what is right – even at the risk of being misunderstood or labeled.
And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem (John 2: 13).
As mentioned in an earlier post, the Passover was celebrated each year in remembrance of the time when the death angel “passed over” the homes of all who had the blood of the lamb on their doorposts. While there was death and mourning in all other homes in Egypt, those (whether Jews or Egyptians) who by faith applied the blood of the lamb was spared, and there was a great deliverance from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 12).
This is the first mention of Christ going to the Passover feast since childhood (Luke 2: 41-52), though there is no reason to believe He did not participate each year.
Of all the Jewish feasts, the Passover would be especially significant to Christ. Each Passover a lamb was slain, symbolizing the true lamb that should come to deliver his people from bondage. Though Christ never lost sight of His mission on earth, the sight of the dying lamb must often have drawn his mind to the near future, when it would be He, and not the animal, that is sacrificed.
Selling in the temple
“And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting” (John 2:13,14)
It is amazing to think that people would be selling in the temple – live animals at that! Obviously they were not in the holy place, but rather in other buildings adjoining or surrounding the main sanctuary.
The original sanctuary had three sections:
The Holy Place
The Most Holy Place
The Outer Court
The holy place was where the priests ministered day after day. The High priest alone could enter the most holy place, once per year, on the Day of Atonement. The only place that the ordinary people could enter was the outer court. It is likely therefore that it was in this outer court that the selling was taking place. This also explains why there was such an availability of stones “in the temple” (John 8: 59).
I plan to do a study on the sanctuary soon so keep an eye out for it.
The purpose of the selling is obvious. God had commanded the Jews to bring an animal offering (according to God’s specifications) when they came to celebrate the Passover. Many Jews lived far away however, and found it more convenient to simply buy an animal when they got to Jerusalem. This of course was convenient, but took something away from the original significance of the offering.
Imagine someone raising a lamb, feeding it, protecting it. His kids become fund of it, and for more than a year helped to care for it. It is not just any lamb – it is a part of the family. Now it is time to bring it as an offering to God – to be sacrificed. The heart and the affection go with this sacrifice. Contrast that with the one who simply walks up to a seller and purchase a lamb for his sacrifice.
Yeshua Cleanses the Temple
It was a disgrace what was taking place in the temple. Cows mooing, sheep bleeping, escaped doves flying around looking for a way out, and sellers and buyers bargaining loudly for the best deals. Such disregard for God’s holy temple should make every servant of God angry, and for the one who knew God’s holiness like no one else, this was intolerable. With zeal and conviction he chased out all who were desecrating the temple, restoring a sense of holiness to the place.
He was one person, against possibly hundreds; yet none withstood Him. Though most of them did not know Him they could sense his majesty, holiness, and authority. They felt condemned in the presence of the Holy One and made haste to get out of His presence. Dignity was restored, and in the place of chaos was quiet moments with the Savior. By the end of the service many received healing and “many believed in his name” (John 2:23).
Dealing with Anger
Many people often point to the actions by Christ as justification for their angry reaction to situations. Clearly there is nothing wrong with simply being angry. The Bible tells us to be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26), showing that it is possible not to sin in anger. There is one thing that we need to be mindful of, however, and that is, generally speaking: “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).
Whenever Christ was angry it was always because of some ill against others or the cause of God. Understandably, we have a natural compulsion to become angry and fight back when someone does us wrong, but if we sin against that person and God in the process, we run the risk of invoking the wrath of God on ourselves – the same wrath that the one who wrongs us will receive.
So, how do we know when our anger is justified, and how to express it?
We have occasion to be angry when we see others being mistreated, or the cause of Christ – especially that pertaining to the salvation of souls – being misaligned.
How we treat our anger in these situations is important. This is especially important for men, since anger is often viewed as strength. You know you have sinned if you have any inclination to share the account with others – especially in a way that makes you look good. Whatever we do, we must be sure that we are led, and constrained, by the love of God in us.