Focal Passage: John 2:11-23
If you were able to travel back to the first century and meet Jesus, what would you expect Him to be like?
Most would think of Jesus in terms of the old hymn by Charles Wesley, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild … Loving Jesus, gentle lamb …” After all, when we read the Gospels, we find a Jesus who is obedient to the Father, gracious toward sinners, patient with children, concerned for the needy, humble in service, and overflowing with a spirit of meekness, joy, and love.
But what if you happened to be in the temple during Passover, on the day when John describes Jesus as being filled with rage at the sight of corrupt merchants?
How would you feel watching Jesus overturn tables, pour out money jars, and chase away these fraudulent opportunists with a corded whip? While most picture Jesus as meek and mild, this chaotic scene would have been radically different. But why did Jesus respond like this? Doesn’t this seem out of place and uncharacteristic of Christ? I think there are at least two reasons we must consider.
First, this scene is an example of Jesus’ righteous anger toward those who do not take worship and holiness seriously.
The ancient temple was an outpost of God’s presence on earth, a place of prayer, worship, sacrifice, learning, and fellowship, where sincere worshipers would go to draw near to God. And this was never more important than during Passover, when Jewish people from all over the world would travel to Jerusalem to remember God’s ancient deliverance from Egypt.
However, while many traveled there with the right heart and focus, others only used God’s temple as a place to take advantage of needy travelers by selling them overpriced animals for sacrifice and charging them exorbitant exchange rates for local currency.
Worshiping God was last on their minds, and holiness was nowhere to be found. They were essentially destroying the temple as a place of true worship, and Jesus would have none of it. Christ’s anger was justified because God’s glory was being overshadowed by sin and corruption, and His holy anger is still set against those who live in sin today.
Second, Jesus uses this scene to reveal His purpose for coming into the world, which was primarily to give new life to sinners. When the religious leaders asked Jesus to show them a sign to justify His actions, He gave them a cryptic message, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
John explains that Jesus was speaking symbolically about the temple of His body, but what did this mean? Just as these people were destroying God’s earthly temple through corruption, they would later destroy the temple of Jesus’ body by putting Him to death on the cross.
However, God used Jesus’ death in His redemptive plan to save sinners and would raise Him on the third day to complete His mission. Therefore, while Jesus was outraged over so much wickedness in the temple, He was also eager to give His own life so they could be forgiven and restored.
In a world of sin and corruption today, let’s not forget that Jesus is coming with judgment, but He is also willing to raise sinners by being judged in our place — and that’s the gospel! B&R