The Temple: Tragedy and hope – John 2:-25

Jesus’ actions when He saw what was going on in the temple is a remarkable event in history. It is recorded in all four gospels. Though, here in the Gospel of John it is placed at a different time in the chronology of the life of Christ than it is in the other three gospels. This leads some to believe that perhaps there were two different times when Jesus drove out the money changers in the temple. However, others believe that this was one event and John placed it where he did that he might emphasize the theological implications rather than the order of events. This idea, however, raises questions. In verse 12, it appears that John saw this event happening not long after the wedding miracle. The phrase ‘after this’ is a transitional phrase frequently used in John’s narrative. As the Pillar New Testament Commentary says, there is “no indication of the length of the interval between the two events.”[1] “The other Gospels say that Jesus cleared the temple two years later, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. When he was arrested and put on trial, the main charge against Jesus was that he threatened to destroy the temple. We don’t know which of the writers is the most accurate or whether Jesus cleared the temple more than once.”[2] I personally believe that Jesus cleansed the temple once and the phrase ‘after this’ in verse 12 refers to the next thing John is telling us and it does not necessarily mean that the next thing Jesus did after turning the water into wine was to cleanse the temple. I believe the other three gospels have the right chronology, whereas, John does not have the chronology of events in mind. He is simply focusing on revealing to us who Jesus is.

As we study this passage, there are several truths that we see here that focusses on the tragedy and the hope of the temple. These truths are very compelling and very relevant for us today.

The Tragedy of the Temple. When Jesus came to the temple He saw something that was very tragic. The temple certainly did not resemble anything that He remembered from His boyhood. It is similar to what we see in the church today. Many churches today look nothing like they used to. Some churches hardly resemble a church at all. Notice what had become of the temple in Jesus’ day.

The temple became a place of convenience. The activity of selling, buying, and exchanging of money at the temple began as a convenience for those who travelled long distances to worship at the temple. Perhaps, this practice began as something innocent, but it soon turned into something very inappropriate. We live in a day of convenience. We live in an instant entitlement society. Everyone wants what they want when they want it. We want to gain a lot with little to no personal investment. This attitude, unfortunately, has carried over into the church. Many churches have become places of convenience with little expectations from those who attend. It’s all about what makes us comfortable and what we get out of it rather than what we can contribute. One of the worst excuses that people give for not going to church is saying, ‘I don’t get anything out of it.’ Should you ‘get something’ out of going to church. Perhaps. However, the purpose of the church is not so you can get something out of it. The church is to be a group of baptized believers who have banded together to grow in their faith together, fulfill the Great Command and the Great Commission, and to give God glory in all that they do. Yes, you will get something out of going to church, if you put something in to it. Sadly, just like the temple in Jesus’ day, our churches have become places of convenience rather than places of worship.

The temple became a place of business. Warren Wiersbe says, “The priests had established a lucrative business of exchanging foreign money for Jewish currency, and also selling the animals needed for the sacrifices. No doubt, this “religious market” began as a convenience for the Jews who came long distances to worship in the temple; but in due time the “convenience” became a business, not a ministry.”[3] Many churches today operate as if they are a business rather than a church. There is often more concern about how much we can gain or save rather than how we should give. We are to be good stewards of what God has given to us, however, the church is not to be in the money-making business. Our purpose is to use all our resources for the sake of the Gospel. We are to invest in the Kingdom by using our resources to enhance the ministry of the church so that more people will come to know Jesus and more believers will grow in their walk with God. We are to use what God gives us wisely, making the most of every dollar for the sake of the Gospel; knowing that God will supply all that we need.

The temple became a place of entertainment. Coming to the temple became sort of a holiday. It was filled with fanfare. It became more of a social gathering rather than a time of worship. Sounds familiar. Churches across America today have become places of social connections and entertainment. Now, it is important that we connect with one another and we build relationships. However, if our main purpose for coming to church is to build relationships with others, then we have missed the point. Our purpose for coming to church should be to build and strengthen our relationship with Jesus. It is not about who you will see at church, it is about who you are coming to worship. Unfortunately, church for some has become a place to be entertained and to sport the latest fashions. Some will drink more cups of coffee at church than Bible verses that they read. Some will take selfies in the parking lot and leave their Bibles in the car. Instead of participating in worship, some will simply watch those on the stage as if they are at a concert rather than at a worship service. The church is not a place of entertainment. The church is not a place of social connections. Rather, the church is a place of involvement and social reform. It is a place of worship. It is a place of Bible study. It is a place of prayer.

The temple became a place of darkness. The saddest thing about what was going on at the temple was who was watching. “The tragedy is that this business was carried on in the court of the Gentiles in the temple, the place where the Jews should have been meeting the Gentiles and telling them about the one true God. Any Gentile searching for truth would not likely find it among the religious merchants in the temple.”[4] Here is a question to ponder: If a lost person came to your church, will they be introduced to Jesus? Will they see something different then what they would see on Saturday Night Live, Entertainment Tonight, or Dr. Phil? If you go to a church that simply tells people how they can better themselves and feel good about themselves rather than introducing people to Jesus, then you need to find a new church.

The Hope for the Temple. The condition of the temple was bad, but all was not lost. Nestled in this sad and tragic story, is a ray of hope.

Jesus is here. Even though things did not look so good at the temple, Jesus showed up. When Jesus shows up change takes place. When Jesus shows up things will happen. There is hope for the church in America today, because Jesus is alive. He desires to intervene and make things right. He came to make all things new. Our prayer should be that Jesus would show up and cleanse us and set things right. The key for any church is to simply lift up Jesus. He must be lifted up in all that we do. If we focus on worshipping Jesus, preaching Jesus, loving Jesus, and serving Jesus; then God will do miraculous things in our midst.

There is a remnant. When things are not as they should be, there is always a remnant. When you study the history of Israel, you find that anytime they strayed away from the Lord, there was also a handful that did not stray. I believe there is a remnant in America today. There are still some Godly men and women who love the Lord and who are praying that God would send a revival. In a day of soft and compromising preachers and worldly churches, there are still those few who are faithful to stand for the truth and preach the Gospel. There is hope because there is a remnant.

Miracles can happen here. Jesus has already proven that He can work miracles. He told the people that the temple would be destroyed and in three days it would be rebuilt. He was talking about His body. The miracle of the resurrection is the greatest miracle of all. The same Jesus who rose from the grave is the same Jesus who is the Lord of all. No matter how bad things may look, we must believe that miracles can happen here. Jesus can do the miracle of restoring a broken marriage. Jesus can do the miracle of saving a lost soul. Jesus can do the miracle of giving sight to the spiritually blind. Jesus can do the miracle of opening the minds of those who do not understand. Jesus can do the miracle of freeing those who are trapped by sin and addictions. Jesus can do the miracle of healing those who are afflicted. He is a miracle working God. There is hope for the church because miracles can happen here!

Miracles leads to belief. Every time Jesus performed a miracle, there were those who believed. When God does a work it results in the saving of lost souls. This is God’s ultimate goal: that people may know Him. His desire is that the world would be saved from the curse of sin. Everything that God does is for that purpose and for His glory.

Many churches today are in bad shape. There is a great tragedy that has swept through many of our churches in America. The good news is that there is hope. That hope is found in Jesus. He still loves us and He still desires to do the miraculous. Therefore, we must escape the tragedy by putting our hope in Him.

[1] Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John (p. 176). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.

[2] Knowles, A. (2001). The Bible guide (1st Augsburg books ed., p. 509). Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg.

[3] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 292). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[4] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 292). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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