Jesus Cleanses the Temple

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The Purification of the Temple - by BASSANO, Jacopo - from National Gallery, London

 

John 2:13-25 (B)

As the Jewish Passover was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the Temple precincts He came upon people engaged in selling oxen, sheep and doves, and others seated changing coins. He made a [kind of] whip of cords and drove them all out of the Temple area, sheep and oxen alike, and knocked over the money-changers' tables, spilling their coins. He told those who were selling doves: "Get them out of here! Stop turning My Father's house into a marketplace"! His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: "Zeal for Your house consumes me".

At this the Jews responded, "What sign can You show us authorizing You to do these things"? "Destroy this Temple", was Jesus' answer, "and in three days I will raise it up". They retorted, "This Temple took forty-six years to build, and You are going to 'raise it up in three days'"! Actually He was talking about the Temple of His Body. Only after Jesus had been raised from the dead did His disciples recall that He had said this, and come to believe the Scripture and the word He had spoken.

While He was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in His name, for they could see the signs He was performing. For His part, Jesus would not trust Himself to them because He knew them all. He needed no one to give Him testimony about human nature. He was well aware of what was in man's heart.

 

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)The Temple in Jerusalem, referred to above, had been brilliantly restored herod.jpeg (11444 bytes) and expanded by Herod the Great. It played a key role in Jewish religious, political and economic life at the time of Jesus. Its massive walls and buildings dominated the city itself; during the great Jewish Feasts it was a magnet drawing Jews from beyond the city and from all over the world, who tripled Jerusalem's existing population.

Ever sensitive to possible danger from a volatile mix of religious fervor and revolutionary politics at such times, Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator, left his administrative center at Caesarea Maritima and came to Jerusalem with extra troops to maintain order and act quickly in case of trouble. Some of those troops were stationed at the Fortress Antonia, adjacent to the Temple.

The Gospels report that Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover. He taught regularly in the Temple area, and His teaching gravely concerned the Rulers of the city. On the above occasion, He upset the tables of the Temple vendors which further provoked the city's religious leaders. Those actions were a major factor leading to His condemnation and death.

Today nothing remains of the Temple and its surrounding buildings which were destroyed by the Roman Legions of Titus in 70 A.D. All that remains are some broken pieces and the great platform created as the site for the Temple by Herod the Great. Now the Temple Site is dominated by the impressive Moslem Shrine, the Dome of the Rock, built after the Moslem conquest of Palestine in the 7th Century. recontemp.jpeg (19273 bytes)

A model of the Jewish Temple shows its innermost room was the Holy of Holies (1). In the surrounding Porticoes, people congregated and listened to Teachers and Rabbis. Jesus and the Apostles taught there. On the left, the Royal Portico (3) is where the moneychanger's tables stood and animals were sold for sacrifice. On the right are the towers of the Antonia Fortress (2), rebuilt by Herod the Great and used by the Romans to control Jerusalem, especially the Temple area.

Most certainly the one act or action that led most directly to the execution of Jesus was the cleansing of the Temple reported above in John 2. The Sadducees controlled the Temple and all of the business related to the Temple in the First-Century BC.  Furthermore, the Romans controlled the Sadducees.

It is probable to believe that the cleansing of the Temple occurred during Holy Week, as suggested in the Gospels. Jesus had created quite a stir in the Palm Sunday processional, an act filled with Messianic symbolism. This would have already created excitement and anticipation among the people and would have aroused the suspicions of both the Sadducees and the Romans. By following this momentous occasion with the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus would have further raised the hopes and expectations of the common people and the Zealots, that their deliverance from the oppression of Rome was at hand.

No doubt, many people saw a connection between Jesus and Judas Maccabee (the hammer), the leader of the revolt against the Seleucid Greeks in 164 BC. When He mounted a donkey at the city limits of Jerusalem, fulfilling both the Prophecy of Zachariah and Rabbinical Expectations, the people who were near responded by calling out "Hosanna"! or "save us", not from our sins, but most likely from the Romans. This set the stage for the events which were to follow.

In cleansing the Temple, Jesus further stimulated the Zealots and the general populace into thinking that something liberating was about to take place; the deliverance from the oppressive Romans. The Sadducees and Romans also knew what all of the symbols meant. Attacking the Temple, by attacking the Money-Changers, was an indirect attack on Rome and as such, an action which could not be tolerated by Pilate. Therefore, this action, more than any action taken by Jesus, led most directly to the need to have Him eliminated, which is to say, executed. When you attack the Money-Changers, you are attacking the Sadducees, which means you are indirectly attacking Rome.

 

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