If we were to step back in time to the days leading up to the day Jesus cleared the temple in John 2, we would have so much more knowledge about why Jesus clearing the temple was such a big deal. Because we would know that the temple in Jerusalem was a big deal.
The temple in Jerusalem, at that time, had been constructed, demolished in violence and strife, and rebuilt, expanded, renovated, and expanded yet again. The temple was a big deal. Literally. It was huge.
Historians will tell you that at the time of Jesus’ ministry, the temple had been expanded so much so that it was one temple with three courts. Most temples were lucky to have one court, let alone three. The temple itself contained the holy of holies, this is where Israelites believed (and as modern-day Christians, we believe as well) that the presence of the Lord dwelt. Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, and it was written that if the high priest had not addressed any sin in his heart before entering, the high priest would die the moment he stepped into the holy of holies. Because sin could not fellowship with the presence of pure holiness in the holy of holies. Some historians would tell you that the high priest would tie a rope around him before entering the holy of holies, so that if he were to drop dead while in the temple, the other priests could pull him out, because only the high priest was allowed to go into the holy of holies.
Jesus was not mad because these men were selling goods in the courts. So don’t boycott your local church coffee shops or bookstores. He was infuriated because these men were selling items used by the Israelites to make sacrifices at astronomical rates to a group of people that were only attempting to honor the scriptures and sacrifice as God had commanded them to. Many people traveled long distances to visit the temple, so bringing their own livestock to sacrifice was not exactly feasible for them. They were also collecting a higher “temple tax” than had been established, another custom in the time, and were pocketing “profit”. The general public trusted these so-called “officials” and were blindly giving away much of their money to these Jewish theives, thinking they were doing what God had commanded. And God was mad.
The greediness of these Jewish men was significantly important taking into consideration the point in time when Jesus came to Jerusalem. We learn in verse 13 that Jesus was coming to the temple in preparation for the Jewish Passover. The Jewish Passover was the first holiday given to the Jewish people by God. This holiday began when God spared the Jewish people their first-born child when God was angy with Pharoah for enslaving His people and sent death upon all families who didn’t mark their doors with the blood of a lamb, symbolizing that they were God’s people. This tragic time for the Egyptions resulted in the emancipation of the Israelite people in the book of Exodus. This holiday is still the most widely celebrated holiday amongst the Jewish people.
The temple was a big deal, and this this eight day holiday was (and still is) a big deal.
Jesus was coming to the temple to celebrate the freedom of His people. Only to find His very people continuing to enslave their own in poverty by taking all of their money. This is not the heart of God and this is not the heart of the Passover holiday.
So, how does this apply to us?
I’m sure you have heard it said, “Your body is temple of the most high God.” Afterall, that is scripture. Many people take this portion of scripture and apply it to tattoos, drugs, alochol, and self harm. But, although that argument could be made, that is not what I really think God is trying to draw our attention to. God is most concerned with the condition of our heart. God’s biggest dream for our life is that we pursue holiness through a process of continual renewing of our heart, mind, and soul.
When we give God permission to guide our lives, He will often walk into courts of our heart and “turnover tables” to help us recondition our hearts for holiness. This doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy like we would want it to. This is where big things in our lives need to change. This is where priorities and perspective needs to change. This is where evil needs to be driven out with God’s whip made out of chords.
If you have followed Jesus for more than a week, you have probably had this experience in one way or another. So I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But I do want you to ask yourself this question:
When God is cleansing His temple, your heart, mind, and soul, (SEE….three courts! Just like the Temple of Jerusalem!) do we recognize that God has our best interest in mind, or do we demand He prove His authority?
18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?
When our heart takes this posture, we lose the ability to see God’s character, and thus, we miss the miracle in the making.
I suppose the bottom line here is this: Do you trust Him? Do you trust His intentions in your life? And are you leaning in to what He is clearing your temple of in this season of your life?
I am praying for you today, friend. God has a plan, that may look messier in the moment, but is sure to leave you with a temple that can be the holy of holies for the presence of Jesus Christ, himself, to dwell in.
Stay tuned for profound thoughts.