"After this He went down to Capernaum with His mother and brothers and His disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves He said, 'Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a market!' His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." John 2:12-17 (NIV).
Really, Jesus! Was He just having "a bad hair day" or was there something more significant going on here?
The other gospels place this incident towards the end of His ministry; John puts it at the beginning. Did it happen twice -- not likely? Was John mistaken? or was there a reason why he deliberately altered the chronology? It seems that chronology was less important to him than purpose.
There is no doubt in John's mind that it happened but, once again, he interpreted this incident as much more that ridding the temple of greedy opportunists. Just as Jesus turned water into wine, symbolising the new life that would come to those who believe in Him in the wake of His death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit, so He would purify His temple of greed and sickness and make it fit to be a dwelling place for the Father.
"The Jews responded to Him, 'What sign do you show us to prove your authority to do this?'
"Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.' They replied, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?' But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken." John 2:18-22 (NIV).
Jesus' response to the Jews' demand was not a fabrication of John. Some of the false witnesses at His trial before the Sanhedrin referred to His words as a possible reason to crucify Him! "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.' Yet even their testimony did not agree." Mark 14:58, 59 (NIV). Of course they misquoted what He had actually said!
His retort was a veiled reference to what they, His interrogators, would do to Him but they would not succeed. He almost threw it out as a challenge. 'You destroy this temple -- me -- but you won't get it right. In three days I'll be back, and my very death and resurrection will give me the authority to do in the hearts of people what I am doing in the temple right now.'
John was careful to let his readers know that, at the time, not even His disciples understood what was going on. It was only with hindsight, after the resurrection, that all of this made sense to them. In contrast to the Jewish leaders, who persistently repudiated Jesus and His claims in spite of all the evidence that pointed to the truth of what He was saying, His disciples believed in Him.
Time and again, as we travel through John's record of this man's extraordinary life, we are confronted with his challenge: 'These people believed in Jesus. Will you?' What Jesus did was much more than intervention to save the day. They were signs -- pointers to His identity and His mission -- to reveal the Father and to take us to the Father.
On the eve of His death, in the final tender moments with them before His arrest, He clarified for His mystified disciples what He was all about. 'Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father,' He told Philip, and 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,' He assured them.
Have you come to the Father yet?
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