The Cleansing

John 2:13-23

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
23 When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.:  NRSV

The Jewish people were required to make an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem to make sacrifice to God to be cleansed of their sins. It was difficult for the people who traveled long distances on their annual pilgrimages to bring with them the animals needed for the sacrifice. So, vendors set up tables where they would sell the sacrificial animals to the people for their sin offerings. As one might expect, what began as a service to the people became a way for profiteering. The pilgrims needed the animals to fulfill their responsibilities to God. Those selling the animals could demand outrageous profits for the “convenience” they provided. Price gouging has been around a very long time.

The price gouging of God’s faithful is what Jesus was reacting to in this story. No doubt many of those who questioned Jesus’ authority to do what he did were in on the profiteering.

There are a couple of things of note.  Jesus, in John’s gospel, uses the word “marketplace” to describe the scene. Matthew, Mark, and Luke use the phrase “den of robbers (thieves).” For them, it is used to provoke the chief priests into plotting to kill Jesus. For John, it is used as a way for Jesus to show his divine power and predict his death and resurrection.

It is also important to note that John’s account of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple begins Jesus’ ministry. In the other three gospels it comes near the end of Jesus’ ministry. As stated in an earlier post, absent the birth narratives, John uses the stories in chapters 1 and 2 to establish Jesus’ divinity from the very beginning of his gospel.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…”

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