Sunday 03 March 2024

Bible Book:

The Jews then said to him, 'What sign can you show us for doing this?' (v. 18)

John 2: 13–22 Sunday 3 March 2024

Psalm 19:1-6


This story of the ‘cleansing of the Temple’ is in all four gospels. For John, it happened very early in Jesus’ ministry. The other gospel writers tell it as part of the events leading up to the crucifixion after Jesus' entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46).

The Passover was one occasion when Jewish men were expected to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. Animals were there because they were required for sacrifice; the money changers' role was to exchange the pilgrims’ money for coins acceptable to the Temple authorities. Jesus clearly felt very strongly about what he regarded as abuse of the Temple, intensified because for him it was also a personal issue. He calls the Temple "my Father’s house" (v.16). To turn it into a market place was unacceptable, and one of the few occasions when Jesus showed his anger. It is OK for his followers to be angry when they see abuse of any kind.

The attitude of Scripture to animal sacrifice is ambiguous. Psalm 51:16-17 illustrates this in a nutshell: "You have no delight in sacrifice…  the sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit."  Verse 19 says: "you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt-offerings and whole burnt offerings…" By driving out the sheep and cattle, animals for sacrifice, Jesus was showing that people needed to move from sacrificial to spiritual worship.

The response of the Jews to what appeared to be a violent protest is odd. They knew as well as he did that trading should not take place in the Temple. To ask Jesus what sign he could show for doing what he did (v. 18) is strange. Jesus'  action was the sign.

Jesus' response: "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up" (v. 19) was understandably misunderstood at the time. We see with hindsight it was a dramatic realisation at the beginning of his ministry, of the tragedy and triumph of its conclusion when he would be executed and rise from the dead three days later.


To Ponder:

  • Climate change and injustice are two issues today which lead people to protest. What makes you feel like protesting?  What form would your protest take?   
  • The hymn 'For the beauty of the earth' (Singing the Faith 102) speaks of "this, our sacrifice of praise".  In what ways do you think worship can be ‘a sacrifice’?


Loving God, this is the day you have made. Help me to rejoice and be glad in it as I offer you my worship, my service and my love. Amen.

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