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John 2: 18 - 20 Pharisees question Jesus' authority to clear the temple

Updated on June 3, 2014

John 2: 18 - 25

"Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken fourty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temople he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised form the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man."

A hush fell over the crowd. Everyone was in shock. The courtyard was in shambles. Coins were scattered everywhere. Tables overturned, animals gone, it looked like a tornado had hit. Cattle and sheep could be heard wandering the streets in confusion. No one knew exactly what to do. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Some among the group secretly thought it was about time, others couldn’t believe the audacity of this man. His power was overwhelming. This was clearly no ordinary man. Time froze. The religious leaders stepped forward and everyone subconsciously held their breath. What would they do about all this? Some noted that he had called this his Father’s house. What did that mean? This was the temple of the one true God. Was he saying that Yahweh was his Father? That sounded a lot like blasphemy and carried a death sentence. He should have been arrested, but it didn’t look like he would be. Red faced and sputtering, the religious leaders demanded of Jesus, “What miraculous sign can you show to us to prove your authority to do all this?” A tremble of excitement flowed through those gathered. Their leaders were asking for a miracle, could this really be a prophet? Or was he something more?

Jesus’ answer broke the tension. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Someone giggled, they were quickly shushed. But it was clear everyone was trying to suppress their own laughter. This was a crazy man, fit for the looney bin. What kind of lunatic thought he could destroy this beautiful temple and rebuild it in three days? Didn’t he know the Temple had been under construction for 46 years? And it still wasn’t done! The Pharisees couldn’t believe their ears. It was their responsibility to question and test anyone who claimed to be a prophet from God. They were in charge of keeping their people safe from false prophets. This man may have challenged their authority here in the Temple with his actions, but with a statement like that, he wouldn’t be a threat.

But Jesus wasn’t talking about Herod’s temple. Although he could have destroyed and rebuilt in in an instant if he wanted to. He was predicting his own death and resurrection. They were getting a glimpse of the future. Later, when he rose from the grave after dying on the cross, Jesus’ disciples remembered this moment and realized that the temple he was talking about was his own body. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus was let go and for the rest of the Passover week he did perform numerous miracles and many people came to believe in him. Rumors spread and people began wondering if this could be the Messiah. Hope grew, perhaps this was the man who would be their king and free them from Roman rule. That wasn’t his purpose. Jesus knew what was in their hearts and did not entrust himself to them. He was there to free them from their sins, not their problems. He would not get caught up in any campaign to make him their political King.

This is a nice story, and I hope you enjoyed my perspective of it, but so what? If we want the Bible to come alive for us and change our lives, we must find meaning in the stories. There are several things we can learn about Jesus and ourselves from this story. For me, I am in awe of Jesus’ knowledge. Even as a man, Jesus had the knowledge of God. He knew who he was; the son of God. He knew the future; he would die for our sins and rise after three days. He knew the thoughts and motivations of all the people around him; they didn’t have the same goal in mind as he did and they liked the show he put on with the miracles. This assures me that Jesus knows everything. He knows my heart and motivations. He knows what my future holds. Nothing can happen to me that will surprise him or that he can’t see me through. I can trust him with my life because he knows the ending. This gives me a huge amount of confidence and security. That is not the only lesson in this story. I would like to challenge you to read John 2:18 – 25. Ask yourself, what does it say, what does it mean, and what does it mean to me. Then I would love to hear the lessons you learn.

If you are interested in learning the history behind the temple, you can read my hub A history of the Jewish Temple. Thank you for reading!


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