John 2:11-12 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.
John 2:13-14 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
The Law of Moses required all Jewish men to celebrate the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles at the temple, which was in Jerusalem. Tradition excused those who didn’t live within 20 or 30 miles of the city. But even many of those folks went too. So thousands poured into Jerusalem for these events.
Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life and the temple was God’s gift to His people – proof of His pledge to dwell with them and a picture of Jesus and His work. But now those who claimed to know Scripture best didn’t recognize Him and were failing to apply God’s principles to their own lives and their worship of God.
The sale of animals probably began as a service for the people traveling at a distance who couldn’t bring their own animals for sacrifice. Also the Passover feast which followed Passover required sacrifices of bulls, lambs, goats or doves according to the worshipper’s financial ability.
But now the animals were often sold at highly inflated prices to people who had no choice, but to pay the price. In addition, to pay the temple tax, travelers were at the mercy of money changers, who charged high fees to change money into the required half-shekels. Most offensive of all, the trade put profit before the need of people to know and worship God, because it took place in the outer court of God’s own temple.
Known as the court of the Gentiles, this part of the temple compound was where non-Jews were permitted. The merchants and money changers were in the courts everyday and instead of worshipping God they seemed to think He existed to serve them. People often start out doing right, but then they twist it for their own purposes.
And the religious authorities were allowing this barrier between God and His people.
John 2:15-17 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
(The zeal passage the disciples remembered was Psalm 69:9) Jesus’ zeal burned for God’s holiness and for justice for the oppressed. He who created all people and all things for Himself, came to HIS temple and powerfully cleared it of every obstacle to worship.
It’s thought Jesus cleared the temple twice and this was the first time. So all these people came right back to what they were doing. Ultimately the final clearing of the temple will be on Judgment Day.
John 2:18-22 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
While you can ask God questions, these people were using their question to DISPROVE Jesus as the Messiah, not prove Him. They had closed minds even though they had been waiting their whole lives for Him to come.
Jesus called the temple “My Father’s house” and both Zechariah and Malachi foretold how the Messiah would sweep the temple clean. The priests at least knew those scriptures. But they willfully refused to believe in Him. Just like many people do today.
In Jesus’ reply He told them His greatest sign of all – His own death and resurrection – proof of His divine authority and power.
Later at His trial His enemies would twist what He said. They would quote Him as saying He would destroy the temple. But of course what He said was “destroy the temple and I will raise it up in 3 days.”
Within a generation Herod’s temple wouldn’t be standing anymore. All the symbolism of the temple pointed to Him. After He died and rose the temple would be obsolete because He is the true temple of God. Now His spirit indwells His people. Therefore the church, united to Christ by the Spirit, is also the temple. We are to worship Him wherever we are.