After this [the wedding at Cana], he [Jesus] went down into Capernaum, also his mother and brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there not many days.

John 2:12

It seems Peter’s home was in Capernaum, and not far off was Bethsaida, where all but Nathanael lived. Perhaps Mary and Jesus’ brothers stayed for a couple of days, then returned to Nazareth, dropping Nathanael off at Cana on their way.

Then, several months went by between the wedding at Cana and the Passover, the next story in John’s Gospel.

Presumably, the disciples had gone back to their fishing business for a while, and John the Baptist continued his ministry at the Jordan’s banks. At some point during this time Jesus again called the disciples to him, and they made their way together up to Jerusalem because the Passover was near. This would be the first of four Passovers in Jesus’ ministry.

There were three feasts every year in which all those of Jewish faith were expected to—if at all possible—attend in Jerusalem, and the biggest was Passover.

Money changers would set up their booths in every outlying town a month ahead of time to collect the yearly mandatory temple tax of half a temple shekel from every grown man. Since only temple money was accepted, everyone had to exchange their money with these money changers at the rate of fifty percent to the value of the coin. Failure to pay could mean a fine or even imprisonment.

Two weeks before Passover the money changers would all take their booths up to Jerusalem because by now all the pilgrims were heading that way. Worshipers would also have to buy all their animals for the mandatory sacrifices.

They could bring their own animals, of course, but getting them inspected by the Levites would cost a certain fee, and usually the animals were deemed defective, which meant they would have to buy an animal from the temple anyway—at a big price hike, and only using temple currency.

Ancient historians record that the temple market and money changing had all started out as a ministry to help the worshipers who came from far away. But it had changed into a ruthless business venture belonging to the high priests’ extended family, who were Sadducees. Originally, the open market had been set up in the hill area surrounding the temple, but had eventually crept into the temple itself, into the Court of the Gentiles.

The outer court was the only place the Gentiles could worship God. There was a death penalty for any Gentile to cross into the inner courts reserved for those of Jewish faith only. Imagine the hawking and stench, the straw and manure, the droves of animals, cages full of birds and all the haggling over the money exchange. How could any Gentile worship in that din?

Throughout Jerusalem every household was cleaning the yeast from every room, according to God’s Law concerning Passover. Every household had to be clean. Ironically, at every Passover, only God’s house was unclean.

Jesus had been going to the temple every year since he was a boy.

He was not suddenly offended.

He had been holding in his offense until his time had come.

God had appointed this day for Messiah to be publicly announced, and we read about it in the prophet Malachi.

 “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” That was John the Baptist, the voice crying out in the desert to prepare the way of the Lord.

And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

 Malachi 3:1-4 (NRSV)

There was certainly plenty of cord around, with all the animals. So, after Jesus methodically wove a whip,

He drove everyone and everything out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen, then poured out the money of the money changers and overturned the tables, and to all those who sold doves he said,

Take these away, do not make my Father’s house a trading center!

Jesus, in John 2:15-16

The money Jesus poured out was all the profit the money changers had taken in. Jesus was careful not to damage any property, hurt any animals, or cause any injury. But his wrath cleansed the temple.

As Malachi had prophesied, four centuries before, “Then [and only then] the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.”

Nobody seems to have tried to stop Jesus.

Not the venders, not the money changers, not the worshipers and not the religious leaders.

In fact, most people hated the extortion and racketeering, so they were probably relieved and thankful that someone had finally done something about it. The disciples apparently just watched, probably stunned. But they learned some important lessons about holy wrath.

God’s wrath is a cleansing power that intends to rid creation of all that is corrupt.

  • It is right to be angry with what angers God.
  • Jesus did not just simmer. At the right time Jesus did something about what was wrong.
  • In this case, Jesus had a plan and he executed his plan with care, with authority, and with thoroughness.
  • Jesus spoke, making it clear what he expected and explaining what was wrong.
  • And when Jesus was done, the incident was over.

Jesus has power to cleanse

Jesus will not tolerate what is corrupt, and when it is time, Jesus will act.

In this case, corruption was found in the outward appearance of holiness, the religious leaders had turned the worship of God into a money-making business. Their corruption brought on God’s cleansing power.

The LUMO Project

Rather than a warning, though, I see this as rescue and relief. This is a promise we can count on, for that is the true love of God, to cleanse us through and through, that we might become heavenly stuff.

[Jesus Cleanses the Temple \ The LUMO Project,]

2 thoughts on “Gospel of John: A Deep Cleanse

  1. I have only just started reading your posts, Joanne. What a wonderful, thorough job you have done with this passage, with food for thought at the end. Please keep writing.

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