John 2:13–25: The Zeal of Jesus
If we imagined that Jesus would gently ramp into his public ministry with something non-confrontational to please the crowds and (hopefully) to start to win the favor of the authorities, we will be disappointed by the course of action Jesus takes. With the zeal of a Son who sees his Father’s house desecrated, Jesus cleanses the temple during a Passover feast, driving out the animals and the merchants who have trespassed to take up residence there for their own profit. As with the sign that Jesus performed in turning water into wine in the previous passage, the sign of cleansing the temple is filled with important symbolism that points beyond this single day at the temple. Jesus will cleanse the dwelling place of his Father, even though it will cost him his life.
What does Jesus’ zeal demonstrate about his identity and his mission? What should we learn from him as we see him drive out the merchants, the sacrificial animals for sale, and the moneychangers from the temple? How does this story fit together with the previous story of how Jesus turned the water into wine—and specifically, how does this temple purification tie in with the purification that the stone water jars at the wedding feast (John 2:6) had been intended for? Is Jesus destroying the most important institutions of God’s covenant with his people Israel, or is his work accomplishing something more than the disruption that we see here? Finally, how should we respond to reading about all this?