Summary: Jesus performed seven signs in the Gospel of John; the second sign was the cleansing of the Temple.
The Sign of Cleansing the Temple
John 2: 13-25
Religious zeal was certainly a great part of Jewish culture: We saw in John 2: 1-12 that the purification rites of the Jews were held in high esteem, but exterior washings did not provide heart cleansing. The Savior changed the water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee, a miracle and sign pointing to the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood which would be poured out for forgiveness of sin.
The Temple and Passover
Today we look at the sign of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple, found in John 2:13 “The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” 14 In the temple (refers to the various courts surrounding the temple as well as the holy place) he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, (probably a handful of reeds) he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons (or doves), “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade (or merchandise).” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Ps. 69:9)
18 So the Jews (answered and) said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”
Not every “sign” given by Jesus in John’s Gospel includes a miraculous phenomenon. Today’s sign might be a “miracle” in the sense that to do what Jesus did in the temple courts without being arrested and without receiving immediate repercussions from the Temple Leaders is astounding. This cleansing of the temple has similarities to the cleansing of the temple recorded in the Synoptic Gospels (Mt., Mk, Lk.) during the week of Passover directly prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, but the one in John is several years before that event.(30 A.D.) In Jesus’ ministry there are two cleansings, the one recorded here in John 2 at the onset of Jesus’ ministry, and the one at the end of His Ministry prior to His death recorded in the other Gospels.
Remember that the Passover commemorated the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt; a lamb was slain and the blood was sprinkled on the doorposts of their homes so that the angel of death would pass over them when he saw the blood. The lamb which was slain pointed to the Lamb of God from God who would be slain for sinners. Because worshipers came from all across Israel and the Roman Empire during Passover, many would not bring their sacrifices with them. Merchants, seeing an opportunity to make money, set up areas in the outer temple courts in order to sell animals. Money changers also sent up businesses to exchange foreign currency into Jewish or Tyrian coins, (coins issued from the city of Tyre) which were of higher silver consistency. The money-changers and the animal dealers charged a high fee for their services, exploiting the people who had come to worship.