John 2

The Zeal of Thine House (John 2.17)

And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. (John 2:17)

Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord GOD of hosts, be ashamed for my sake:
Let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.
Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.
For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up;
and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me. (Psalms 69:6-9)

Psalm 69 is an important one. It details the suffering of a faithful servant who is condemned by the general population but is in truth righteous, innocent of sin towards them. The family of the speaker has abandoned him, and may be the reference behind Jesus’ disheartening encounter with his own family (Ps 69.8, Mt 12.46-50). The psalmist is in great distress, and ridiculed even by the ridiculous—drunkards sing the shame of the psalmist (Ps 69.12). Throughout, the singer pleads with God to deliver him out of the trouble he is in. The singer is given gall and vinegar to satisfy his thirst, which is referenced at Christ’s crucifixion (Ps 69.21, Mk 15.23, 36, John 19.29-30). This last reference is Christ’s final deliberate typological act, the sign that “it is finished” (John 19.28-30).

The disciples make the connection between Jesus’ passion in the temple, his zeal, and the author’s words in Psalm 69; following his zeal is a short conversation regarding the fall of the temple and Christ’s resurrection, and at the end of the crucifixion, Jesus himself deliberately returns us to Psalm 69, “so that the scripture might be fulfilled.” This same psalm pleads with God to prevent the grave’s final victory (Ps 69.15) and the disciples connect Jesus’ cleansing of the temple to his own usurpation of the temple as the center of God’s worship, to the building of a new temple from living stone, which is completed through his coming resurrection—Jesus confirms this connection as his life slips through his fingers, as his detractors tear down God’s temple, which shall not be “swallowed by the pit.” We are told that Jesus and the author of Psalm 69 speak with the same voice, and are given a preview of the resurrection as Jesus begins to debate the destruction of the temple in John 2.