Following Jesus • 40 / Homecoming and housecleaning

Read This: John 2:13-22

When He was twelve, Jesus spent the Passover in Jerusalem with His family. They went every year, but His twelfth year visit was noteworthy. When everyone else left for home, Jesus stayed behind.

It took several days of frantic searching before Mary and Joseph found Him. He was in the temple dialoguing with the priests. Mary pressed Him on this. “Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you.” Jesus seemed surprised. “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”

That episode provides the correct orientation for all that follows. Jesus is the Son of His Father.

Now, eighteen years later, He returns to this same place to begin His public ministry. His Father’s house, in Jerusalem, during the Passover. This time, however, He is not dialoguing with the priests. He is confronting them.

The temple was supposed to be a spiritual sanctuary. It represented God’s presence on earth, and everyone was welcome to pray, worship, and find mercy there. But the Court of the Gentiles — the only place non-Jews were allowed — was filled with animals, merchants, and money-changers. The religious leaders had turned it into a giant bazaar.

Jesus did not tolerate this for a second. He made a whip and drove out the sheep, oxen, merchants, and moneychangers. He drove them out. He overturned their tables and scattered their coins. (It’s worth noting that He didn’t harm the doves, helpless in their cages. Rather, He told their sellers to take them away. Jesus wields authority, not cruelty.)

A whip was the sign of authority and judgment. Jesus used it as both, justifying His actions by citing His ownership interest in the matter. This was His Father’s house!

Reacting quickly to the pandemonium, the religious leaders challenged Jesus and demanded a sign that His claim was true. Had they thought about it, His very actions were the sign. Zeal for God’s house, the Lord suddenly coming to His temple, purifying the sons of Levi, and casting the merchants from the house of the Lord. These were all messianic prophecies, unfolding before their eyes.

But they didn’t make the connection. So Jesus gave them another sign. Since they were confronting Him about His behavior in the temple (the symbol of God’s presence), He confronted them about destroying the temple — God’s actual presence. Then He told them He would raise it up again in three days. Another reference to prophecy.

These men knew the Scriptures by heart. They knew all these passages. But again, they missed the connection. (So did the disciples until after His resurrection).

Jesus’ decision to launch His public ministry at the Passover was no coincidence. Passover is the celebration of God’s deliverance from bondage and death. It involves the sacrifice of a lamb who dies in the place of the celebrants.

Jesus is that Lamb.