Word Study
Gospel of John--High Christology

Home | Word | Contact Us


2:12 - 25--Temple Clearing


John next tells us that Jesus, His family, and His disciples went Capernaum. Other comments in the Gospels tell us that Capernaum became Jesus' new home (Matthew 4:13, Mark 2:1), though John is the first to tell us that Jesus' family made the move as well. The connection between Matthew 8:5 and 8:14 suggests that Capernaum was Peter's home as well; furthermore, Matthew's tax station was apparently nearby as well (see Matthew 9:1 and 9:9). John does not mention Matthew by name; however, the timelines of the Synoptics tell us that Jesus did not meet Matthew until after he moved to Capernaum. It's same to conclude that, at this point in John's Gospel, Jesus has not yet met Matthew. That being the case, Jesus has obviously not gathered around Him the Twelve core disciples; it would seem that the disciples mentioned in this passage are only the small group we have met up to this point.


The story of Jesus cleansing the Temple is told in all four Gospels; what is confusing is that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all place it towards the end of their accounts, whereas here John places it at the beginning. This has led to much speculation. The majority of scholars assert the event occurred towards the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, but that John places it at the beginning for topical/thematic reasons. A minority of scholars assert that it is actually John who has the correct chronology, and that the Synoptics place theirs towards the end for various reasons. And then some scholars suggest that John and the Synoptics describe two separate events; that on two different occasions, Jesus cleared out the Temple.


In all the Gospels, the occasion occurs near Passover. If there were two events, however, this would not be mere coincidence; Jews, including Jesus, commonly traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. If there were two incidents, they would have occurred at least two (if not three or perhaps even four) years apart, explaining how Jesus could have gained access to the Temple a second time after making such a nuisance of Himself the first time. D.A. Carson comes close to advocating the two-occurrence theory, though he admits that, ultimately, we do not know.


What is interesting is that Jesus' response here, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days," becomes the muddled accusation used against Him in Matthew and Mark's Gospel (Matthew 26:61, Mark 14:58); however, the charge itself is not raised against Him in John's Gospel. This would seem to be yet another example of John serving as "clarifier" in the overall story of Jesus: the absence of the Synoptics on this comment might have lead some to believe it was an entirely fabricated charge against Jesus; John fills us in with some additional information.


What was Jesus so upset about? Speculations abound about possible corruption on the part of the Temple officials. The animals were used for Temple sacrifices; the sacrifices had to meet certain standards, and receive the approval of the Temple officials. Perhaps they entered into an agreement with the sellers that they would only approve their animals, allowing the sellers to raise their prices? Again, this is all guess-work, and with little real warrant. It is significant to note that, in John's account, Jesus does not raise the issue of cheating; instead, His anger seems to come from the fact that the Temple has been turned into a marketplace. Making a whip, He drives the animals out (anyone who has had experience with cattle and sheep can quickly appreciate that this was no easy task).


John does make a clarification on Jesus' statement which may also give us a clue as to the thematic aspect of this story. Jesus says, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." John adds, "But the temple He had spoken of was His body." Dr. Craig Blomberg suggests that this is another in John's series of "new": last week we saw a "New Joy" with the turning of water into wine; next we will see a "new birth" in Jesus' discussion with Nicodemus (being "born again"). Here, Jesus talks about a new Temple. And just as the water-into-wine miracle may have pointed to a replacement in the Jewish sacrificial system, here we would see the same: no longer will God's people find it necessary to travel to the Temple and offer sacrifices. Instead, Jesus' death ("Destroy this temple") and His resurrection ("and I will raise it again in three days") have replaced the old sacrificial system, and served as a lasting sacrifice. 


See you next week!


In Christ,


--Pastor Dan


If you have anything of interest to add to this site,
or you have general comments, questions, or ideas,
we welcome your response.

Pages Created by Dan Russell
copyright 2003 - 2018
Last modified date:
January 1, 2018