The Rebuilding Of The Temple

March 19, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
John 2:13-22

1. Jesus blew his top! He flew off into a rage and made a whip out of rope, then went around wildly cracking it! What's more, [he did it] on the temple grounds! This is the passage of scripture for today. How does it strike you? Does it seem odd?

2. Or, for some reading this, they may be happy, "Wow, Jesus. I'm loving [how you whooped on 'em]!" Some people are always mad about something. Some people always feel a justifiable anger burning. They might claim, "Didn't even Jesus get mad? Didn't he use even violence as the circumstances demanded? Therefore, even we should get mad when we're supposed to be. You should expect there to be righteous anger." -- Of course, that's true. There is a righteous anger. There is also a time when one should be angry. However, whenever we read this and make such a claim, we will need to examine how we can say that "Jesus' anger is of the same nature as my anger." If it is embarrassing to say such a thing, you are much better off not saying, "Didn't even Jesus get mad?" -- Because even in The Epistle Of James it is written, "The anger of a person does not fulfill the righteousness of God," (James 1:20).

3. Any way, we mustn't look only at Jesus' anger or use of force. Instead, we should probably look at the reason for why Jesus was angry at this particular point.

House Of Trading

4. Why was Jesus angry? The key to understanding it lies in the statement Jesus himself gave. Jesus said, "Carry these kinds of things out of here. You will not make My Father's House into a house of trading," (verse sixteen).

5. Business was certainly being conducted in the placed called the Court of the Gentiles in the Jerusalem temple. As it is written in this passage, cows, sheep, and doves were being sold. Do you think "It was not illogical for Jesus to get angry over some cows being sold in the holy temple?" But, all of this was being conducted in accordance with the rules of the law of Moses. Beginning at Deuteronomy chapter fourteen and verse twenty-four it is written that those going on a pilgrimage from afar will exchange their produce for silver and carry it with them, right on site they will buy whatever is necessary, cows, sheep, wine and so forth. The animals offered up during worship must be the kind that have no injuries. [The animal] must undergo inspection by a priest. This, too, was ruled by the law. Therefore, animals with their inspections already done with were sold at the temple. All of this too was for conducting services according to the way the law of Moses ruled.

6. The money changers were there for the same reason as well. When making a monetary offering, you must offer it with the Jewish half shekel silver coin. This, again, is a rule of the law, (Exodus 30:13). But the truth be told, the half shekel coin and that kind of currency was no longer in general usage because it was Roman currency that was in circulation. Therefore, there needed to be people who would exchange it for you into the old half shekel Jewish coin. That would be the money changers. All of their trading was for the conducting of services in accordance with the law of Moses.

7. Therefore, Jesus did not take issue with simply the fact that trading was being conducted on site. I am repeating myself, but it was being conducted in accordance with the rules of the law. Jesus' having dared to call it a "House of Trading" obviously goes in direct contrast with "My Father's House." He was taking issue with the fact that the place that was originally supposed to be "My Father's House," that is, the house of God had ended up no longer being the house of God. What do you suppose this means?

8. The people selling the sheep and the cows and the people doing the money changing were there in order for the pilgrims to have worship services. Since they were serving the worshippers, you could say that their actions were a part of, what you could call, the acts of worship. At that point in time, the temple was the house of God even for those doing business. But, if their interest was only in doing business, if their interest was only in profits, if their interest was not in the very act of worshipping God, then the temple as the house of God was no more for them indeed. It was nothing but a house of trade. It's a very very simple story. The same could be said to the authorities of the temple. The temple provided the Court of the Gentiles to the merchants. It turned into a system in which a part of the amount sold went into the temple. At festival times with a lot of pilgrims, naturally, it turned out that a lot of revenue went into the temple. Since the chief priests were turning their attention more to the number of pilgrims and the receipts coming in from them rather than to the worship itself being conducted at the temple, the place was no longer the house of God to them. It was no more than a house of trade.

9. So, what about the pilgrims? The trading couldn't have been with just the sellers. Quite naturally, there would [have to] be buyers as well. The reason they exchanged their money was to make monetary offerings. The reason they bought the cows and the sheep at the temple was to offer them up as sacrifices. Many were trying to present offerings in accordance with the law. That itself is not seen as bad. But, if what the people were thinking there was just to fulfill [some] religious duty the right way and that's it, then what? It's not that they were not thinking about God. They did come on pilgrimage from afar to worship God. However, when the act of worshipping is only the fulfillment of a religious duty in the right way in accordance with the law, it is a business transaction that often takes place at that time and place. With whom? It is a transaction with God. It turns into a business transaction to try to receive something from God in exchange for fulfilling a duty. Oh my, what trading is going on here, too! It's the business of God the businessman. In this way then, it does happen that the temple becomes a house of trading even for the worshippers who are worshipping.

10. What Jesus was looking at must have been the temple that had turned into this kind of house of trade. Though in one sense or another, it was a house of trade -- a house, in the final analysis, where the people were only thinking of what I am going to get, of will my wishes be satisfied. It was a house where only the expectations of the people were swirling about; that's a house of trade. The reason Jesus became angry looking at that kind of "house of trade" was that he knew that it was supposed to originally be "My Father's House, the house of God."

My Father's House

11. [It is] an expression, "the house of God." It is also found in the Old Testament. When you give it some thought, it is a strange expression. Does God need a house to dwell in? No, even Solomon, who had built the first temple said, "Can God really dwell on the earth? Neither heaven, nor the heaven of heavens, can contain you. This temple that I have built is even less fitting for you," (First Kings 8:27). Therefore, the temple was not something that was built because God needed a house to live in. A house of God on the earth or anything like it is not necessary for God. But, God put a house of God on the earth in order for the people on the earth to meet with Him and to have fellowship with Him. That's what it means to be a place of worship.

12. Jesus called this "My Father's House." In it there is fellowship between the father and the son. Jesus understood fellowship with God as a fellowship between father and son. [You] could say that he showed us what fellowship with God is in this world. It is a fellowship with the father and the son. It is a relationship which nobody could enter into. But, somehow, human beings are invited into that fellowship. That's what it means that a temple, which Jesus called "My Father's House," does exist on earth.

13. Human beings are invited into fellowship with God. What's more, just as all that came to be, God the Father has given us the way to receive forgiveness of sin. One of the great meanings of the animal sacrifices in the temple was a sacrifice for atonement for sin. A person could pray and seek for forgiveness of sin there. God commanded that they slay the sacrifice. God doesn't have need of cows or sheep. It is the people who need them. God granted redemption for sin for the person with the blood from the sheep or the cow. In order to forgive a person's sin! In that manner, sinful man or woman is invited into a relationship with God the Father! That's what it means that there is a temple, that there is a place of worship. That's amazing grace.

14. But, human beings ganged upon "My Father's House" which is a manifestation of this amazing grace and turned it into a "House of Trade." It is precisely because of the fact that Jesus understood the fellowship between the Father and the Son that he could sense so profoundly the gravity of their trampling upon this grace. Therefore, he got mad. Therefore, he drove [them] out. He told [them], "You must not turn My Father's House into a house of trade!"

The Rebuilding Of The Temple

15. So, what does this event mean for us today? It is made plain by the exchange with the Jews that ensued. The Jews said, "Did you intend on showing us some kind of sign in your having done this?," (verse eighteen). In other words, they were criticizing him with [the question] of "By what authority did you do this?" They said, "Show us a special sign that points to your authority." To that Jesus gave the following words. "Tear down this temple. In three days [I] can rebuild it," (verse nineteen).

16. It is translated as "tear down this temple," but I think that's weak. Jesus said, "Demolish this temple." To make it even more clear, he said, "Dismantle this temple piece by piece." With forceful words, he completely repudiated the temple which had ended up becoming a house of trade and all the rituals in it. Maybe he was telling us that there was no meaning at all in a temple or in ceremonies that did not lead people into a living relationship with God the Father, the kind that Jesus Christ showed us about. Something like that has no meaning in it at all. That's why Jesus said to dismantle it. Also, the truth is, just as Jesus had put it, this temple would end up torn down for real, in the soon to be Jewish wars. In about the time this gospel was written, the temple was no more.

17. But, [I] wouldn't call that curtains for the temple even though Jesus did drastically cut down the temple and the ceremonies in it as cited above. The grace of God which had placed the temple on the earth had not pulled the final curtain. Jesus said "I am building [it]." It is translated as "rebuilding [it]," but this is the word "raise," and it is also a word that could be translated as "be raised from the dead." Jesus is saying that the temple which ought to be built will raise from the dead on the third day.

18. What is this temple? -- The Jews who heard this interpreted that same temple as what he would rebuild all over just as it once was. That would be some crazy story for that to happen. You would never expect him to do a rebuild in three days of a temple that was incomplete even after already forty-six years [of construction on it]. Even to the disciples Jesus words must have been impossible to understand fully. But, after a while the disciples did see the truth of it. Please look at verses twenty-one and following. "The temple of which Jesus was speaking was his very own body. When Jesus was raised from the dead, the disciples recalled that Jesus said this and they believed the scriptures and the words Jesus spoke," (twenty-one and twenty-two).

19. The resurrection of Christ was nothing other than the rebuilding of the temple. The former temple was rejected. Then, a temple as a completely new house of God was built. That was the body of Christ. So, where is the body of the risen Christ now? -- It is here. The Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ, (Ephesians 1:23). It is not a building. This very assembly is the re-built temple. Therefore, the church may do all kinds of things, but it assembles first of all and above all else in order to worship. For, it is the body of Christ, it is the church [made out] of the resurrected and rebuilt temple. Where are the sacrifices for the atonement of sin that are being offered up in this temple? -- We do not need to keep buying cows on the grounds any more. Christ has already offered his own body as the sacrifice for the atonement of sin. We're in the temple which the precious sacrifice of Christ had been presented.

20. The reason God placed a temple on the earth was so that the humans on earth will meet with God and live in fellowship with Him. That's why; [and] we're invited into that fellowship with God that Jesus has shown us. This is an amazing [gift of amazing] grace. The fact that the church exists on earth is an amazing gift from God. The fact that we sinful human beings have been given a place of worship is an amazing gift from God. We must not make it into a house of trade again, where only human expectations swirl about.