Following the miracle of water being turned into wine, Jesus spent a few days with his biological family and with his newly developing spiritual family, the disciples, in Capernaum and then, as the text reads, “13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,” (John 2:13).
For Passover, all Jews were called to “go up” to Jerusalem to commemorate God’s “passing over” the homes of the Jews when He carried out the tenth and final plague upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Moses had demanded of Pharaoh, in the name of God, to “let my people go.” Pharaoh did not and God visited ten plagues upon the Egyptians, each worse than the last, until Pharaoh finally relented. During that final plague, the homes of the Egyptians were visited by death of the firstborn. The Jews, however, were spared as death passed over their homes, preserving their firstborn. This became known as the Passover and is among Jewish high holy days right up to the present.
Jews were to “go up” to the Temple to celebrate Passover every year, and on this particular year, as Jesus was beginning His ministry, He and His disciples went up. All throughout Scripture we find this phrase “go up” or “went up.” This is a typographical reference. Jerusalem was a city on the highest of hills and at the top of that hill sat the Temple with its golden dome. It could be seen for miles and miles and pilgrims would literally climb to the higher elevation of Jerusalem to attend the Temple. They would, indeed, go up. In the Book of Psalms there are many psalms cited as Psalms of Ascent. These are psalms that would be sung as the Jews made their way up to Jerusalem in anticipation of Passover and other celebrations through the year.
This particular spot, the temple mount, has a rich history of spiritual and religious development and is today considered home by Jews, Christians and Muslims, all three religions tracing their roots back to Abraham.
The text explains what Jesus found in the Temple and what He did about it. “14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:14-17).
Malachi was the last prophet who served before what is known as the intertestamental period, the 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. During that time the Jews were enslaved in Egypt and God was silent, not speaking through a prophet. Malachi told of one who would come in time to prepare the way of the LORD, meaning John the Baptist, and he predicted that when the LORD came, He would be on fire for the sanctity of the house of God. On this day in the life of Jesus, the prophecy of Malachi was fulfilled as Jesus drove out the merchants who had turned the Temple into a very fleshly marketplace.
The Jews want to know what gives Him the right to do such things. “18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” (John 2:18).
Jesus, as He often did, answered the question in a way that they did not understand. “19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19-22)
With His answer Jesus was unfolding the truth that a transition was taking place. The dwelling place of God was no longer going to be the physical Temple but was going to be the human heart. The crowd thought He was speaking of stones, but He was speaking of His own physical sacrifice. He, the real Temple, would be killed, but would rise from the dead in three days and it’s in Jesus that we find eternal life, not in the Temple.
“23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-25). Some believed, some didn’t. What about you?