28 June 2014

John 2:13-25

“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (v. 19)


In the three other Gospels in the New Testament this story is set at the end of Jesus' ministry rather than at the beginning, so it is interesting to reflect on why  this version of the story is placed here in John's Gospel.

The temple was at the very heart of Judaism. There was only one temple and it was the focus for many important aspects of Jewish life and culture and the place where God had promised to live among the chosen people. It was also a place where animals were bought and sold for sacrifice and alongside this particular trade a huge marketplace had developed. It was a noisy, dirty, smelly place where crowds jostled.

Into this scene walked Jesus, who literally turned everything upside down (verse 15). He was furious about how the temple was being used as a place commerce and trade. Not because there is anything wrong with trading, the problem was that the marketplace had taken over and the people had lost sight of the temple as God's dwelling place.

So what does all of this mean and why does John tell this story here? It is Passover time (verse 13), the time when the Jews celebrate their liberation from slavery in Egypt. John's Gospel has already told us that Jesus is God's Passover lamb (Exodus 1:29-34) so there is a hint to the readers that Jesus is giving new meaning to Passover. This Passover lamb will bring freedom from slavery to sin and death to all God's people, through his death the cross and his resurrection.

When the furious temple officials challenge Jesus and ask him what he is doing, he gives an intriguing response and in this he hints at his own death and resurrection (verses 18-22). Jesus is saying that he is the true temple, the place where God is because God is the Word (John 1:1), and he is the Word made flesh. John's Gospel is helping us to see Jesus' life through the lens of his death. This clue, put down near to the beginning of John's Gospel, is key to understanding who Jesus is.

To Ponder

  • This is a very familiar story for many. As you read it this time and reflect on it, what are you noticing for the first time?
  • What does Jesus' image of himself as the temple say to you as a person living in the 21st century?

Bible notes author

The Revd Diane Clutterbuck

Diane is an ordained presbyter in the Methodist Church. She works as as a coach, supervisor and trainer mainly in the public and voluntary sectors with people and organisations who are committed to growth and development.