“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:13–22, NASB95)
Starting with the end of today’s passage we find that the disciples remembered this particular incident spoken of here, and they finally understood what it was that Jesus had said years a few years before. “Oh, so that’s what He was talking about.” The advantage of understanding is priceless. Because of Jesus’ words being brought back to their remembrance they believed the Scripture which Jesus had spoken along with the words of His own shared at that time.
Sometimes it’s really difficult to believe something that you don’t understand. This is where faith is so important to us. The disciples moved forward with Jesus, not understanding every word He said, but rather having the confidence that He indeed was authoritative and accurate. Because of that they could trust Him even with that which they did not grasp for themselves. I can only imagine the number of curious things that they tucked away as they walked with, watched, and listened to Jesus.
Here Jesus had gone to Jerusalem with His disciples at Passover time. As they approached the temple court a disturbing sight awaited them. Due to the long distances that people traveled it was often difficult for them to bring their sacrificial animals with them, and so they had grown accustomed to purchasing them once they arrived. Recognizing their need, the merchants had become opportunistic and greedy, and the moneychangers who took the travelers’ coinage and converted it to the appropriate silver for the temple tax were abusing the situation with exorbitant rates of exchange. They had taken what was to be an act of contrition and worship and turned it into an opportunity to get rich. They had defiled the process as God had given it, and Jesus went about setting things straight. He made a whip (a powerful one), and He proceeded to overturn their tables and drive them out of the temple area. He told them to take their business elsewhere. This is not where it belonged.
I can only imagine how shocked people were, both the merchants and moneychangers and Jesus’ disciples. We read that His disciples remembered that the psalmist had written (psalm 69:9) about this consuming zeal that Jesus evidenced. I can only imagine how memorable this was. Of course, not everyone was amazed in the way the disciples were. Those who stood to profit from these business endeavors had a different opinion, and they questioned Jesus as to by what authority He had done what He had just done. “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” They wanted to know His credentials. Who gave Him the power? What proof does He have of that authority? They wanted to know just what it was that He thought He was doing and on what grounds should they listen to Him.
Jesus’ response baffled them. He, speaking of Himself, told them that if they destroyed “this temple” that He would raise it back up again in three days. Of course, by the time of the writing of this gospel His disciples knew exactly what He was talking about. He was talking about His own body, which is exactly what they did when they crucified Him. And just as Jesus said, He resurrected Himself on the third day. Imagine being the disciples when this event came back to their memories. Jesus had told them exactly what would happen, and it happened exactly as He had said. Jesus had told them that the Jews could and would take action against Him, but their actions would not prove victorious. The authority by which He came was not that of man, but that of God.
But the Jews didn’t get it. Their response indicated that they thought He was speaking of the physical temple in which Jesus had just overturned the tables, beat the merchants, and chased them away. They scoffed at Him pointing to how long it had taken to build the temple in which they stood—forty-six years, and He had the nerve to think that He could rebuild it Himself in three-Ha! I’m sure that even His disciples, based upon the wording of the passage, likely understood His comment like the other Jews. But the difference is that they followed after Him as disciples while the others stood against Him as accusers.
Ultimately every single one of us comes to a point that we have to decide what we are going to do with the person of Christ. Are we going to hear of His death, burial, and resurrection and scoff at it in unbelief, or are we going to hear, understand, believe, and respond? I am so thankful that God has opened my eyes to understand His Word and to know the truth about His Son. I am so thankful that having learned about Him that I then believed and trusted Christ for my salvation. I am so thankful that because of His resurrection I have been given new life as well. I am thankful that this new life is not one based upon fifty-seven years of hard work (insert your own age), but one given because Jesus’ temple (body) was destroyed, buried, and raised again on the third day according to the Scriptures. I am thankful for these things knowing that no matter how hard I might have tried there is absolutely no way I could have built a temple acceptable to God. I am so, so thankful that Jesus has done this and made me acceptable to God and that His Spirit enables me to live as an acceptable sacrifice as I obediently give myself back to Him in obedient worship.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, NASB95)
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NASB95)