Cleansing our temple

“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, 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. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” (John 2:13–17 ESV)

This event seems out of character for Jesus. It is quite a violent scene: animals driven out of the temple courtyard, coins scattered, tables overturned, people ordered to pack up and leave.

John recorded this at the beginning of his account of Jesus’ life. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record an event that is very similar at the end of his life, at the beginning of the week that would climax in his crucifixion. Scholar’s debate whether this is one event or two. As Jesus did many things more than once, if there were two events they would make good “bookends” for Jesus’ public time of teaching and healing. Whatever the case, John does establish that this took place at the beginning of Jesus’ teaching by including a time-frame: it was 46 years after Herod began the improvements to the temple. Historians tell us that this began around 19 BC, which would place this event as being in 27 AD.

But why did Jesus do this? It really was quite simple. These traders had turned a place of worship into a common market-place. Although it might seem that they were providing a service by selling animals for sacrifices and having a place to exchange local coinage for what would be accepted at the temple, in reality, it was all about profit. The place where people were to give glory to God had become a place where people could get rich by charging extortionate prices. The priests became very wealthy as a result of this trade.

When questioned as to why he was doing this, Jesus replied: “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:19–21).

And are not our bodies the temple of the Holy Spirit today? Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). If the physical temple needed cleansing in the days of Jesus to restore it to a purpose to glorify God, how much more the temple of our lives?

An immense price was paid to buy us back from sin and its hold over us. That price was Jesus dying for us. Because we have been purchased by God with this price, we are no longer our own. When we become a Christian we choose to serve God and all that is right (see Romans 6:17-23). Our body now belongs to him and is a temple of the Holy Spirit, a place for God’s Spirit to live.

Do we need to cleanse our temple? The context of 1 Corinthians 6 is that of sexual sin, which can be such a problem to so many in the promiscuous societies in which we live. Whatever the sin is, we need to get rid of it, cleanse it from our lives, so that we can be a temple that has the purpose of giving glory to God.

Do our lives reflect who is living in us?

Readings for next week:
20 November – John 2
21 November – John 3
22 November – John 4:1-38
23 November – John 4:39-54
24 November – John 5

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