Rev. Haak is pastor of Bethel Protestant Reformed Church in Elk Grove, Illinois.
The cleansing of the temple marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. The miracle at Cana and the trip to Capernaum (v. 12) were of a more private nature, whereas the cleansing of the temple is performed before many and was something the Jews were not to forget (see Mark 14:57-59; Mark 15:29). By this act Christ enters fully into the work that the Father has given Him to do.
More importantly, the work of cleansing the temple reveals the heart of the work of Christ. The temple in Jerusalem was a shadow of the true temple of God which Christ was to build through His death and resurrection. That true temple is the church, which comprises all those elected of the Father and sanctified by the Son. By means of His body being crucified and raised again He would establish the eternal temple (house) of God, in which God would take up His dwelling (see Eph. 3:19-22; I Cor. 3:17). Because He had come to build the true temple of God He had the perfect authority to make the shadow as nearly a representation of the reality as possible, and to change it from a den of robbers into His Father’s house indeed.
The richness of this event is seen in that it is the fulfillment of at least two Old Testament prophecies.Malachi 3:1-4: ,… and the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come into his temple . . . and he shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteous.,, Psalm 69:9: “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”
In addition to this central lesson, this passage also teaches us that:
1. God requires of us pure worship. Can we at times behave as badly as the Jews? Yes, when we secretly bring into the house of God in our thoughts our business, monies, houses, and a whole stream of worldly affairs. It is not enough to bring our bodies to church, and then to allow our hearts to wander to the ends of the earth and our minds to plan out the details of the week that is ahead. Such is offensive to Christ. Zeal for God’s house means we will leave our worldly matters and worries outside, and fill Gods worship with offerings of righteousness.
2. The death and resurrection of Christ stand at the heart of the entire gospel. Jesus is conscious of it when He starts His work. He makes very plain to the disciples that He must suffer, be buried for three days, and rise again according to the Scriptures (see Luke 24:45-47).
3. Christ had perfect knowledge of man. As the Son of God He had no need that anyone inform Him of the true intentions and directions of men’s hearts. He is not fooled by an emotional and temporary appearance of belief, but is able to discern between counterfeit and genuine faith.
1. The notice that Jesus spends a brief period of time in Capernaum (v. 12). See also Matthew 4:13-15.
2. His going to Jerusalem to keep the Passover and cleansing of the temple from the defilements of the greedy Jews (vv. 13-17).
3. The announcement of His suffering, burial, and resurrection by which He builds the temple of God (vv. 18-22).
4. Jesus knew what was in man (vv. 23-25).
1. From Christ’s appearance at the Passover (John 2:13;John 5:1; John 6:4; John 11:55), what can be determined about the length and pattern of our Savior’s ministry? Remember that the Passover was held once a year (Ex. 13:10).
2. Describe the situation Christ found in the temple. What was taking place? Why? Who was responsible? What was the general attitude toward what was taking place?
3. Describe the actions of Christ. What virtues lie behind His actions? (Is. 11:2-4). Show that it was not uncontrolled rage but holy zeal. Why did He not drive out the doves?
4. In what ways can we make God’s house a place of merchandise?
5. What is the significance of the cleansing of the temple? What did the temple represent? (See Ephesians 2:19-22; I Corinthians 3:17; Revelation 21:3.)
6. What Old Testament prophecy does John see fulfilled in this action of Christ? Others?
7. How does the death and resurrection of Christ serve as the building and preservation of the house of God?
8. What are the Jews really objecting to when they ask for a sign in verse 18? (See Matthew 21:23.) What is revealed about the Jews in their asking for a sign? (See I Corinthians 1:22.)
9. Did the Lord’s own disciples believe in His resurrection? If not, why not?
10. What kind of “believing” is referred to in verse 23? Distinguish this from true faith. If true faith is not based upon signs and miracles, what is the foundation upon which faith must stand?
11. What does it mean that Christ did not commit Himself to them?
12. What does verse 25 prove concerning Christ?