Today’s Scripture Focus: John 2:13-25
Last Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp where at least a million Jews were murdered. 300 survivors gathered to commemorate this unspeakable tragedy. Nearly three quarters of a century later, the event was marked by outward expressions of grief through sobbing embraces. Today we know the facts of what happened, but we still don’t understand the “how” and the “why”. When we read the New Testament, we must understand that this is exactly how its original readers understood the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.
So though anything relating to the Temple was a very painful subject, somehow the story of Jesus “clearing” or “cleansing” the Temple made it into all four Gospels. As with so many other episodes, John treats it very differently. Here, it occurs as the very first act of Jesus’ public ministry, rather than the last. John isn’t concerned with the chronological order of events. John wants his readers to understand their meaning. In John, the major events of Jesus’ ministry are “signs”, and center around special occasions. Passover was one of the three pilgrimage feasts held each year, when hundreds of thousands traveled from all over the empire to pray.
There was only one place in the Temple complex where gentiles, known as “God fearers”, could pray—the outer court. It was here that a religious marketplace had been set up. Though Jews were required to bring their finest animals to sacrifice, many found it more convenient to simply buy them at the Temple. Foreign currency had to be exchanged for the Jewish “shekel” to pay the Temple tax, often with ridiculous exchange rates. With this noisy commerce going on, prayer for the God-fearers, who couldn’t enter the Temple inner courts, was impossible. Thus, God was being shamed in what was supposed to be God’s house.
Jesus acted violently to shut down this market. In John’s world, it was always the job of the son to bring honor to the father. Thus, Jesus didn’t simply lose His temper at the corruption of the Temple system—He was declaring Himself the Son by righting the shame being heaped on the Father. Secondly, Jesus was acting as Prophet. When He said “destroy this Temple”, He was speaking to what would happen to it within a generation. Finally, Jesus was once again revealing who He was to His disciples. After His death, they fully understood what “and I will raise it in three days” meant. Jesus fulfilled the purpose of Temple by enabling us to truly worship God for all time.
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
What events have happened in your lifetime that you don’t understand? Have you been able to place them in God’s hands, and trust God’s care?
Is there anything in today’s scripture that especially speaks to you?
What questions would you like to ask about today’s scripture?