The True Temple & The True Sacrifice

The Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Lent this year (John 2:13-22) was enclosed by two verses (13 and 23) each of which mentions Jerusalem, the city where God chose to place His Name and habitation, and the Passover, the festival which, above all others, speaks of the Lamb of God.

In John chapter 1, we are told that the Word is God and that the Word, Who is the Light of the world, took flesh and tabernacled among us. Jesus, then, is the true House of God.

In John 1:29 and 36, John the Baptist, seeing Jesus, cried out: “Behold the Lamb of God”. So, we are plainly told that Jesus is the true Lamb of which the Passover spoke.

This indicates that our passage in John 2:13-22 is dealing with the Person Who is the true Temple of God and its true Sacrifice. The theme of the Temple permeates the passage. Just look how often the idea of God’s house is mentioned…

And also notice in verses 14-16 what Jesus does even to the sacrificial animals and to the money (which would be needed for Trespass Offering restitutions – Leviticus 5:15ff).

What is Jesus doing here? He is shutting down the temple and all the sacrificial offerings because they are found wanting, and the true temple and the true sacrifice is already here.

He comes with cords (verse 15) – or measuring lines (Greek: schoinion – measuring lines, e.g. Zechariah 2:1 LXX) – and turns them into a whip because this is a temple inspection1 in which the house has been measured and found wanting (compare Zechariah 1:16, 18; 2:1; Ezekiel 40:3, 5; 47:4; Revelation 11:1; 21:15).

The problem is not that they are changing money or selling sacrificial animals. The problem is that they were doing it IN the temple, which was meant to be a house of prayer (not merchandise) for all nations (1 Kings 8:41-48; Isaiah 56:7). That’s why He drove them OUT of the temple. Psalm 69 is quoted and we should note the reference to prayer in Psalm 69 and that it promises to make their table/altar (Malachi 1:7,12) a snare and their camp a desolation.

By their abuse of it (by making the temple their own house) they have destroyed God’s house and overturned its tables/altars and desecrated its trespass offerings. The temple is no longer God’s house, they have made it their house (compare Matthew 23:38). So Jesus gives them a taste of what He will do to their house in AD 70. And tells them, in the process, that, though they may try and think they have succeeded, they will not be able to destroy God’s true house. In fact, their killing of Him, will be the slaughter of the true Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.

Revd. Arthur Kay is a minister in the Free Church of England.

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1. The first in His ministry. He undertakes a second inspection near the end of His earthly ministry – see the Synoptic Gospels. The third, and final, inspection will come in A.D. 70. See Leviticus 14:33ff.