They Believed – John 2:12-22

6 June 2010, AM
Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Pastor Kevin A. Pierpont

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John 2:12-22

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore 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.

We’ve been keeping before us this one big idea, which is John’s purpose in writing this Gospel, it’s to make clear to us that Jesus is God. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit this is just what John continues to do in our passage of study today.

You may recall that last week we began our study at the end of our passage, verses 1-11. Last week we noted in verse 11 that This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

Why did Jesus turn the water to wine? His ultimate purpose was to manifest his glory. And why did he manifest his glory? Remember that when Jesus manifests his glory, he’s making himself known as God in flesh. And the purpose for which Jesus manifested his glory was so that his disciples would be strengthened in their belief in him, and they were.

Like last week, we’re beginning at the end again today because again we see the purpose for which John shows us Jesus’ actions. And again it’s to see that Jesus is God. We’ll see it in two ways today; he’s revealed as God in two ways in the text before us.

1) He’s passionate for purity and 2) he holds the power over death.

But first let’s look at verse 22, starting at the end of the story.

22 When therefore 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.

Our whole text today leads up to this point. When Jesus’ disciples recalled what he did and said they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. So when they recalled this they were strengthened in their belief in and faith in Christ.

As we return to the beginning of the story before us now what we see is that Jesus and his mother and brothers and disciples go to Capernaum where they stay a few days and then we’re told in verse 13 that the Jewish Passover was coming as Jesus went on to Jerusalem.

As Jesus arrived at the temple what he found disturbed him deeply. I’m going to call this Jesus’ first temple cleansing. The other three Gospels also mention a time when Jesus cleansed the temple but they point to that time being at the end of Jesus’ ministry, while John points to this temple cleansing near the beginning his ministry. Another thing that seems to point to two temple cleansings is that in this one in John’s Gospel we don’t see the kind of opposition to Jesus’ ministry like the other three Gospels record. There’s a different outcome here as opposed to the others. So I think we’re seeing here in John 2 Jesus’ first temple cleansing.

Now the outer courts of the temple were intended to be a place for prayer and other acts of worship and instead what Jesus found in the temple courts which angered him so, verse 14 says, were those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there.

Now why would there be this selling of animals here in the temple courts surrounding the temple? The reason for this is that the law required sacrifices of oxen and sheep and pigeons, so it was likely that this custom had been established of selling sacrificial animals. This would provide the necessary sacrificial animals for those who’d traveled from a distance and couldn’t bring their own. And then money-changers were needed because before anyone could purchase one of these animals they’d need to exchange their various types of money for the certain kinds of coins of purer silver which were the only ones the priests would accept, conveniently enough.

So what probably started out as a convenience for those who came to worship, had turned into quite the money making scheme under the guise of an act of kindness. That’s why we see Jesus in verse 15, making a whip of cords, driving out the sellers along with their sheep and oxen and pouring out the money and overturning the tables of the money-changers.

Now there’s nothing about this that suggests any violence on Jesus part. The whip was a whip of cords (or rope), fairly harmless, but handy for getting the animals moving. And had there been any danger to the people the temple guards would have likely stepped in. John does not say that Jesus hurt anyone physically.

But at the same time let’s understand that Jesus is no passive wimp — he did drive them all out with their animals. Those who’ve made Jesus out to be a docile, passive, effeminate have obviously done him wrong. Certainly we know from the Gospel accounts that Jesus is compassionate and has emotions that cause him to weep. He’s compassionate when compassion is needed. But when its time to set a wrong right he’s a passionate and strong individual.

So what’s the wrong that’s been done here? It’s seen in verse 16 in what Jesus tells those who sold the pigeons: “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”

In the passage before us here’s the first pointer that Jesus is God. It’s his passion for purity, purity of heart, that points to Jesus being God.

Jesus Is Passionate for Purity of Heart

Note that Jesus didn’t condemn those who were buying, he wasn’t driving them out of the temple. He was driving out those whose hearts were wrong, whose motives were wrong, he was driving out those who were there for the wrong reason, the ones who were there for selfish gain.

Did you notice that contrast that Jesus pointed to? He said they were making his Father’s house (another pointer to Jesus’ deity) a house of trade. His Father’s house was a place of worship, a place of repentance, a place of sacrifice, a place of prayer. They were making a mockery of it by making it a marketplace veiled in worship.

Their marketplace in the midst of the temple courts betrayed the true condition of their hearts. In fact, later in verse 25, John tells us that Jesus knows what’s in the heart of man. Those who were there selling and changing money for great profit where not there because they wanted to honor and glorify God. And that’s what angered Jesus. It was greed veiled in religious piety.

Jesus gets right to the heart of the problem — it’s their love of money instead of love for God. Jesus’ disciples, John says in verse 17, remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” And there would be other times Jesus dealt with this same problem seen in the scribes and Pharisees in Luke 16:13-15. Jesus says,

13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them,“You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

Jesus was zealous for God honoring purity and holiness in his Father’s house, which is an indicator of his passion for the purity of his people. Jesus Christ is zealous for holiness and purity of heart. It’s an indicator of his deity. It’s the same thing we see in 1 Samuel 15:22 when God rejects Saul’s sacrifice after his half obedience. Samuel tells Saul,

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

Now we may not buy and sell in the church for personal profit but the lesson for anyone who calls themself a Christian is that you dare not be one who honors God with your lips but has a heart far from Him (Matthew 15:8–9). God is much more interested in where your heart is than where you say your heart is. And to say you love God but instead have a heart that longs for personal profit over and above God’s glory profanes God’s name.

Jesus Christ came to make the glory of God known and to free us from anything that would entangle us and keep us from giving God the glory due His name. So the heart of the matter for you is what is it you really worship? That’s essentially the challenge Jesus was making as he chased these people from the temple courts.

So the fact that Jesus is God is seen in his passion for purity of heart. And Jesus Christ came to give himself as a sacrifice for sinners so that we sinners might be forgiven our sin and saved and be made pure in heart in him when we believe in his name. Sin is impurity and sin kills, but Jesus gives a new heart, Jesus saves, Jesus gives life.

There’s another pointer in the reference to the temple to the deity of Christ. Beginning in verse 18 the Jews push back. How? By saying they want a sign. Something to verify his authority to come in and tell them they’ve done wrong. 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” That’s a convenient question. They’re stalling. Jesus got right to the heart of the problem, their sinful hearts and they want to dodge and make it an issue of his authority.

In verse 19 Jesus responds to their stall tactic by saying,“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

In Jesus’ response he reveals more of his glory, his deity. John tells us in verse 21 that when he spoke of this temple he was speaking about the temple of his body. But in verse 20 it’s clear that the Jews didn’t see Jesus for who he is or understand what he was talking about; The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”

Jesus Holds the Power Over Death

Yes, you want a sign, says Jesus. The same sin, cloaked in religiosity, that causes you to take advantage of people for the sake of personal profit, all the while claiming to do good to them, is the same sin cloaked in religiosity that’s going to kill this temple, my body. And your sign will be that I raise this temple, my body, from the dead on the third day.

Jesus is pointing to the fact that he holds the power over death. Jesus reveals himself as God — he holds the power over death. Jesus says in John 10:15, I lay down my life for the sheep. Then in verses 17 and 18 he says,

17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Who is Jesus? He’s the one with the power over death. He’s God. And because he is who he says he is you can believe in him and be saved from eternal death and separation from God in hell.

In verse 22 John tells us that, When therefore 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.

At the time, John didn’t understand what Jesus meant when he talked about destroying this temple. The other disciples didn’t understand it then either. Nor did the Jews. But later Jesus’ disciples understood. It was after Jesus was raised from the dead. And even then they only understood because they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Do you believe in the scriptures? Do you believe the word Jesus has spoken? There’s a wonderful promise several chapters later for all who believe.

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.