Unlike the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) that tell the story of the temple cleansing as Jesus’ last public act, John has placed it as his first. The Jews of Jesus’ day believed that Messiah would begin his mission by cleaning up the temple and transforming the religious life of the people. Only then would he begin the process of sorting out their political shambles and rescuing the nation from the foreign oppressor. Jesus’ public ministry in John begins with this Messianic expectation.
Prepare to listen. Quietly pause and prepare to receive the Word. When ready, pray: Lead me in your truth, and teach me.
Prayerfully Read John 2:13-22
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. 15Making 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. 16He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ 17His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ 18The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ 19Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ 21But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22After 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.
After changing water to wine (transforming dirty water into good wine), Jesus transformed the corrupt temple practices. When confronted by the Jews (religious rulers), he made a dramatic and unexplained claim: ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ They took him literally and mocked. John, however, explains for us readers that Jesus “was speaking of the temple of his body.”
Jews believed the temple was the presence of God on earth, where people could come to be forgiven, healed, experience God. Jesus believed that he’d taken over from the temple and people must now come to him. As Tom Wright maintains, “It seems clear that Jesus believed himself to be called to speak and act as if he were the replacement of the temple and all that it stood for” .
None of it made sense to the disciples until after the resurrection. They remembered what Jesus said, had an ‘aha’ moment of understanding, and they believed scripture (that is, what the Old Testament taught) and Jesus’ words. It will take looking through the lens of Jesus’ resurrection for us to get it as well. The resurrection changes everything.
What troubles or excites you in this story? What do you now see?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus you came to replace the old with the new in your body. Bring me to my own aha moment of recognition so that I too believe and follow you more faithfully. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world. Stay open to seeing Jesus more clearly.
 Tom Wright, Spiritual and Religious, 2017, p. 62.
Reflection on Scripture has been a constant in my life ever since I can remember. Reflecting on Jesus in the Gospels has become a necessity to get Jesus right. Join me in reading John to see Jesus more clearly this Lent.