Jesus Attends the First Passover of His Ministry.
(Jerusalem, April 9, a.d.
Subdivision A. Jesus Cleanses the Temple.
D John II. 13–25.
d 13 And the passover of the Jews was at hand [We
get our information as to the length of our Lord's ministry from John's Gospel.
He groups his narrative around six Jewish festivals: 1, He here mentions the
first passover; 2, another feast, which we take to have been also a passover
(v. 1); 3, another passover (vi. 4); 4, the feast of tabernacles (vii. 2); 5, dedication (x. 22); 6, passover (xi.
55). This gives the entire length of our Lord's ministry as three
years and a fraction], and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [It was
fitting that he should enter upon his full ministry in this city, as it was
still the center of what was recognized as a heaven-revealed worship. The
fitness of Jerusalem for such beginnings was afterwards recognized in the
preaching of the gospel of the New or Christian dispensation—Acts i. 8.] 14 And he found in the temple
[Our English word “temple” includes two Greek words; namely, 1. The
122sanctuary—the small structure which
contained the holy and most holy places, and which answered to the tabernacle
used in the wilderness. 2. The heiron, or entire court space which
surrounded the naos, and which included some nineteen acres. The
heiron was divided into four courts, and as one entered toward the
naos from the east, he passed successively through them, as follows: 1,
Court of the Gentiles; 2, of the women; 3, of Israel; 4, of the priests. It was
in this outer or Gentiles' court that the markets described in this section
were held] Those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of
money sitting [This market in the temple was for the convenience of the
people, and the nearness of the passover increased its size. Oxen and doves
were constantly needed for sacrificial purposes, and as each family which ate
the passover required a lamb, they would be in the market in great abundance.
Josephus tells us it required about two hundred thousand lambs for the passover
feast, but his exaggerations will stand a liberal discount]: 15 and
he made a scourge of cords, and cast all [The rest of the verse shows that
“all” does not refer to men, but to sheep and oxen. The scourge was
used in driving them out] out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen;
and he poured out the changers' money, and overthrew their tables [The Jews
were each required to pay, for the support of the temple service, one
half-shekel annually (Ex. xxx. 13; Matt. xvii.
24). These money-changers sat at small tables, on which their coins
were piled and counted]; 16 and to them that sold the doves he said,
Take these things hence [As the doves were in cages of wicker-work, they
could not be driven out; hence Jesus called upon their owners to remove them.
Though Jesus cleansed the house, he wrought no waste of property. The sheep and
oxen were safe outside the temple, the scattered money could be gathered from
the stone pavement, and the doves were not set free from their cages];
make not my Father's house a house of merchandise. [Jesus bases his
peculiar authority over the temple on his peculiar relationship to Him for whom
the temple was built.
123As a Son, he purged the temple of his
Father. In the beginning of his ministry he contested their right to thus
appropriate his Father's house to their uses, but in the end of his ministry he
spoke of the temple as “your house” (
Matt. xxiii. 38), thereby indicating that the people had taken unto
themselves that which truly belonged to God, even as the wicked husbandmen
appropriated the vineyard (Luke xx. 14,
15). The rebuke of Jesus was addressed to the priests, for the
market belonged to them, and the money-changers were their agents. Edersheim
says that this traffic alone cleared the priests about three hundred thousand
dollars a year. Though churches differ widely from the temple, they are still
God's houses, and should not be profaned. Religion should not be mixed with
traffic, for traffic tends toward sin. Phariseeism is its fruit—a wish to
carry on profitable business, even with God. On this occasion Jesus objected to
the use of the temple for trade without criticising the nature of the trade.
When he purged the temple three years later, he branded the traders as
robbers—Matt. xxi. 13.] 17 His
disciples remembered that it was written [Ps.
lxix. 9], Zeal for [loving concern for] thy house
shall eat me up. 18 The Jews therefore answered and said unto him,
What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? [The
Jews felt that only a divinely commissioned person could thus interfere with
the ordering of God's house. They therefore called upon Jesus to give them a
sign as an evidence that he possessed such divine commission. The manner in
which he had cleansed the house of its trafficers was of itself a sign, if they
had only had eyes to see it. Jesus could not have thus cleansed the temple
unaided had he been a mere man. The power which he showed in the temple was
much like that which he manifested in Gethsemane—John xviii. 6.] 19 Jesus answered and said unto them,
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. [John here
records this saying, and Matthew (ch. xxvi.
61) and Mark (xiv. 58) tells
us how at the trial it was twisted into a charge against Christ; thus the
Evangelists supplement each other.
124For the temple in this sentence
uses the word “naos,” or sanctuary, the structure which was
peculiarly the seat of God's presence. The sanctuary was a figure or symbol of
the body of Christ, and the words of Jesus were a covert prediction that as
they were desecrating the symbol so would they destroy his body, which it
symbolized. They reverenced the Spirit of God neither as it dwelt in the
sanctuary nor as it dwelt in the body of Christ. The body of Jesus was a temple
(Col. ii. 9), and Christians and the
church are also temples (I. Cor. iii. 16, 17; vi.
19; II. Cor. v. 1; II. Pet. i. 13). God's temples can not be
permanently destroyed. They are “raised up.”] 20 The Jews
therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building [The temple
which then stood upon Mt. Moriah was the third structure which had occupied
that site. The first temple, built by Solomon (b.c. 1012–1005), was destroyed
by Nebuchadnezzar. The second temple, built by Zerubbabel and Jeshua (b.c. 520), had been torn down and
rebuilt by Herod the Great, but in such a manner as not to interfere with the
temple service. The sanctuary was completed in one year and a half, while the
courts required eight years. Josephus says eighteen thousand workmen were
employed in its erection. Additional outbuildings and other work had been
carried on from that time, and the whole was not completed until a.d. 64], and wilt thou
raise it up in three days? [To put before him the difficulty of what he
apparently proposed to do, they merely mention one item—time. They say
nothing of the army of workmen, nothing of a variety and cost of material,
nothing of the skill required in the process of construction. How impossible
seemed his offer! Yet by no means so impossible as that real offer which they
misunderstood. A man might rear a temple in three days, but, apart from Christ
Jesus, self-resurrection is unknown to history.] 21 But he spake of the
temple of his body [John differs from the other three Evangelists, in that
he frequently comments upon the facts which he records. Both history and
commentary are inspired.] 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead,
125disciples remembered that he spake this [It was
three years before they understood this saying. Thus truth often lies dormant
for years before it springs up in the heart and bears fruit—I. Cor. xv. 58; Eccles. xi. 1]; and
they believed the scripture [several passages foretell the
resurrection—Ps. xvi. 9, 10; lxviii.
18], and the word which Jesus had said. [They believed
that Jesus had meant to predict that the Jews would kill him, and that he would
rise again on the third day.] 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the
passover, during the feast [the seven days' feast of unleavened
bread—Lev. xxiii. 5, 6],
many believed on his name, beholding his signs which he did. [We have no
description of the miracles wrought at this time. See John iv. 45; xx. 30.] 24 But Jesus did not trust himself
unto them, for that he knew all men [The word here translated
“trust” is the same as that translated “believe” in the
preceding verse. They trusted him, but
he did not trust them, for he knew them. He did not tell them anything of his
plans and purposes, and the conversation with Nicodemus which follows is a
sample of this reticence], 25 and because he needed not that any one
should bear witness concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man.
[John gives us many examples of this supernatural knowledge which Jesus
possessed. See i. 42, 47, 48; iii. 3; iv. 29; vi.
61, 64; xi. 4, 14; xiii. 11; xxi. 17. This chapter itself gives us a
faithful picture of “what was in man.” We find in it temple,
profaners, money-makers, sign-seekers, opposers of reform, false and weak
professors of faith, etc., but none to whom Jesus could trust himself.]