The overarching purpose of Johns Gospel
Now remember, the overarching purpose of John’s entire gospel is stated in chapter 20 and verse 31, and I remind you of it every time because it’s the reason for everything that John writes. You’re going to be able to quote this from memory, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” So he has a…an apologetic purpose, a polemic purpose to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah. And then he has an evangelistic purpose, so that you will believe that and in believing that have eternal life. Everything in this gospel then is driven in the direction of proving the deity of Jesus Christ, proving that He is divine, that He is the Word made flesh, that He is God who was with God by whom everything that exists was created. All the way through by the action of Jesus, by the miracles of Jesus, by the works of Jesus, by the words of Jesus there is evidence of His deity.
Previews of future judgement in the temple
The second miracle is not a private miracle; it’s not a family and friends miracle–this is a miracle in which tens of thousands of people participate, and they’re not watching and they’re not innocent bystanders. They’re in the middle of the drama and the power and the divine energy of this miracle. It is a miracle, as I said, not driven by compassion which is why Jesus made wine and why He casts out demons and why He heals sick people and why He raises dead people. Those are miracles of kindness and compassion. But at the beginning of His ministry and the end of His ministry, He did two miracles, essentially the same thing–He threw the entire mass of humanity at Passover out of the temple. He did it at the beginning and did it at the end. Those were not miracles of compassion, those were miracles of holy anger and they were previews of future judgment, a judgment that would come in the destruction of Jerusalem temporarily and a judgment that will become a reality forever before the throne of God at the Great White Throne.
…In fact, His ministry begins at a Passover, and it ends at a Passover. And at both of those Passovers, the first and the last, He does the same action against the Temple. At the first Passover, He cleanses the Temple to publicly begin His ministry. At the last, He cleanses the Temple to publicly end His ministry; then becomes the Passover Lamb. And in between during His ministry, there will be two other Passovers. John tells us about one in chapter 6, and another in chapter 11. He always kept the Passover, always.
…It is an age-old problem of hypocrisy in Israel, false religion, superficial worship. And it infuriates Jesus because it is irreverent and it is blasphemous. In Amos the Lord says, “Stop your songs; I don’t want to hear your songs.”
…They all head down to Capernaum, that little village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. That little village, by the way, was a place where Jesus did so many miracles that their unbelief is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah
Jesus at the temple at the Passover with the money changers (Macarthur’s context)
This time as He enters into the Temple to begin His ministry, and by the way, He had been there every year of His life. But this time He had engaged in His ministry, and so He comes with a different mindset. We have a glimpse of Him coming there, don’t we, when He was twelve.
And at that point He’s only asking questions, trying to get answers out of the leaders in the Temple. But this time He’s entered upon His messianic ministry and He’s going to do His Father’s business.
This is the first act of His Father’s business.
They have turned His Father’s house into a place of business, but He’s going to do His Father’s business.
He goes in. He found, verse 14, in the Temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers seated at their tables. And you have to understand a little bit about this.
The number as to the population of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, a little bit hard to identify. But if you look hard enough and sort of put everything together, it appears as if the city of Jerusalem could have had a hundred to three hundred thousand inhabitants normally, we don’t know exactly.
Several hundred thousand seems to be a safe number.
However, at Passover that number would be expanded to read a million. Josephus goes so far as to say 2.7 million, but that’s because he multiplies the number of sacrifices by ten. I…for the sake of being conservative there are a million people–and I think that’s pretty safe–that have literally descended upon the city of Jerusalem for the Passover and the subsequent feast.
That means that every room in every inn and every room that wasn’t a room for occupancy was turned into a room for occupancy. Every…every extra room in every single home was filled and people were packed into rooms in multiples to get this mass of people in. The population fourfold what it normally would be, let’s say.
And a focal point of all the activity of these million people is the Temple, and the Temple courtyard, the outside courtyard, the Court of the Gentiles as it was called, would be only acres, only some number of acres at that time, and it would have to absorb this mass of humanity coming there. How many animals did they slaughter? Was Josephus right in saying 250 thousand?
The slaughter of the animals officially took place at three o’clock, between three o’clock and six o’clock on the afternoon of the Passover.
But if there were that many animals, they might have started slaughtering them even earlier, and there would be people coming and going for the purpose of bringing their sacrifice to be offered.
But there was more than that going on. Apparently by this time and there’s some historical indications of this, the people who used to buy and sell outside the Temple have now moved inside the Courtyard. This may well be because the High Priest has now taken over this business for his own aggrandizement. In fact, they were called the Bazars of Annas.
So when you get inside, you not only have this crush of humanity of people coming and going and some people coming ostensibly to talk to God, to praise God, to worship God, to see the Temple as pilgrims from other places. We can’t even estimate how many people were there. It would be well into the tens or twenties of thousands of people at any given point in time.
In the middle of this there are people selling oxen, sheep and doves which means there are oxen, sheep and doves there. And there are moneychangers seated at their tables. The reason they were selling sacrifices is because people coming from long distances would find it inconvenient and cumbersome to take animals with them, and so they would purchase an animal when they arrived there.
And experience told them that if they brought an animal, it would probably be rejected by the folks that checked out the suitability of the animal and if the animal was refused, they would have to buy one of the temple animals anyway. That’s kind of how they did their business. They rejected the ones that were brought so they could make money on exorbitant prices on the ones they sold.
Also, by the way, everybody had to pay for the animal and the temple tax in the currency that was accepted in Israel. And these people would be from other countries, have different currency, would have to be changed. Some historians say the exchange rate went over ten percent, twelve percent of the coin exchange.
So there was business going on there in the temple. Extortion, really, Matthew 21, when Jesus does this again, He says, “You’ve turned My Father’s house into a den of thieves, robbers.”
So into this crushing place with tens of thousands of people and animals, buyers and sellers, under the control of about three hundred Temple police, if you add all the folks who were responsible to keep the peace in there and to manage the crowd control and to make sure that they took care of any incidents and disruptions, you’d get about three hundred, maybe a little less, maybe two hundred and seventy. Fort Antonia was next to the Temple and the Romans had built it high so they could sit on the top and watch what was going on. If needed, they could dispatch a Roman garrison to go down there and put down any kind of action that was threatening. So it was a well secured place and, after all, it was a temple and people were supposed to be worshiping there. So they were supposed to maintain a proper attitude.
These are the most severe things Jesus did in His entire life
Jesus sees all of this, selling sacrificial animals, money changing, and He sees that they have totally polluted His Father’s house. Their hearts are the same as the hearts of the people to whom Isaiah wrote, to whom Amos wrote. Their hearts are like Psalm 51:16 to 19, you can read that at your own leisure.
Should have been a place of repentance, a place of reverence, a place of humility, a place of worship, a place of praise; it’s a chaotic marketplace–abusive commerce and corruption marked that place.
Nothing…say that advisedly…nothing enraged Jesus with holy anger and fury like irreverence.
And He did His most severe action in these two incidents in His life.
All the rest of the time it was compassion and mercy. Here it was divine fury, divine fury. These are the most severe things Jesus did in His entire life and they were done against hypocritical worship.
The Jews expected the Messiah to come and attack the Gentiles. Instead, the Messiah came and attacked them.
And He attacked them at their best. He attacked them in the middle of their worship, at their high point, the Passover, in the Temple. They expected a conquering warrior for sure, but who would come after the nations that had abused them, mistreated them and were currently occupying them. But instead He sends an unmistakable message that judgment is coming on them, not their enemies.
In fact, at the end of His ministry after doing the same thing again, He sat and looked at the Temple and told His disciples that this thing is coming down and not one stone will be left on another, 70 A.D. It happened and it is no more to this day.
Well, Jesus saw all of this and in holy fury He acted. Verse 15, “He made a scourge of cords.” Cords would be lying all over the place because there were animals everywhere and the animals were always tied to ropes and they would be also tied to crates, to keep the crates closed or to carry the crates that the birds were in. And He was picking up some of these cords and braiding them into a scourge.
It doesn’t seem much of a weapon against tens of thousands of people who were all going to have plenty of reason to resist what you’re doing.
Now remember, this is an unknown man, this is the beginning of His ministry…this is the beginning. They don’t have any history of Jesus to expect anything. They don’t know who He is. He is just a man; He’s just a man at the Passover, perhaps recognizable as a Galilean by the way He dressed. Put some little ropes together, makes a little whip. And then He unleashes miracle power.
There is no human explanation for what happened. The miracle is in these words, “And drove them all out of the Temple.”
How understated the miracles of Scripture are
Again I remind you how understated the miracles of Scripture are. There’s no lightning, there’s no thunder, there’s no angelic fanfare, no trumpets blow. He just drove them all out. Just an unimaginable act of power.
…This was not an act of cruelty on people. This was an act of judgment on a system of religion.
Jesus attacked the evil system not the people
I know the Roman Catholic Church uses this as a justification in the Middle Ages for the Inquisition and torture and imprisonment and execution. But Jesus did no harm to people. He attacked the system.
We’re the temple now
So what does that have to do with us?
There’s no Temple anymore. Oh, at least there’s no building that is the Temple, but there is a temple.
We are the Temple, aren’t we?
Turn to 1 Peter 4 and we’ll wrap up there, and then we’ll share in the Lord’s Table together. First Peter 4, verse 17, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God and it begins with us first.”
Time for judgment to begin with the household of God. Who…who is that; what is that? Listen to Ephesians 2:19, “You are fellow citizens with the saints and you are God’s household.” The judgment begins with the house of God. We are the Temple of the living God, He indwells His church.
And it is time for judgment to begin here and this is where we come to grips with that, right at this table. And I’ll show you that. Turn to 1 Corinthians 11. This is where Paul institutes the Lord’s Table, repeating what our Lord did in the night of the Passover.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:27, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup in an unworthy manner shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.”
That’s a frightening thing if you come to this table in an unworthy manner, that is celebrating the death of Christ for sin while holding on to sin, if you come in a hypocritical manner, you’re guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. “So let a man examine himself and in so doing eat the bread and drink the cup, do some heart examination, for he who eats and drinks eat and drinks judgment to himself.”
Judge ourselves rightly we will not be judged
And then verse 31, “If we judge ourselves rightly, we will not be judged.”