In His Temple
[This chapter is based on John 2:12-22.]
"After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother, and
His brethren, and His disciples: and they continued there not many days.
And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to
In this journey, Jesus joined one of the large companies that were
making their way to the capital. He had not yet publicly announced His
mission, and He mingled unnoticed with the throng. Upon these occasions,
the coming of the Messiah, to which such prominence had been given by
the ministry of John, was often the theme of conversation. The hope of
national greatness was dwelt upon with kindling enthusiasm. Jesus knew
that this hope was to be disappointed, for it was founded on a
misinterpretation of the Scriptures. With deep earnestness He explained
the prophecies, and tried to arouse the people to a closer study of
The Jewish leaders had instructed the people that at Jerusalem they
were to be taught to worship God. Here during the Passover week large
numbers assembled, coming from all parts of Palestine, and even from
distant lands. The temple courts were filled with a promiscuous throng.
Many were unable to bring with them the sacrifices that were to be
offered up as typifying the one great Sacrifice. For the convenience of
these, animals were bought and sold in the outer court of the temple.
Here all classes of people assembled to purchase their offerings. Here
all foreign money was exchanged for the coin of the sanctuary.
Every Jew was required to pay yearly a half shekel as "a ransom
for his soul;" and the money thus collected was used for the
support of the temple. Ex. 30:12-16. Besides this, large sums were
brought as freewill offerings, to be deposited in the temple treasury.
And it was required that all foreign coin should be changed for a coin
called the temple shekel, which was accepted for the service of the
sanctuary. The money changing gave opportunity for fraud and extortion,
and it had grown into a disgraceful traffic, which was a source of
revenue to the priests.
The dealers demanded exorbitant prices for the animals sold, and they
shared their profits with the priests and rulers, who thus enriched
themselves at the expense of the people. The worshipers had been taught
to believe that if they did not offer sacrifice, the blessing of God
would not rest on their children or their lands. Thus a high price for
the animals could be secured; for after coming so far, the people would
not return to their homes without performing the act of devotion for
which they had come.
A great number of sacrifices were offered at the time of the
Passover, and the sales at the temple were very large. The consequent
confusion indicated a noisy cattle market rather than the sacred temple
of God. There could be heard sharp bargaining, the lowing of cattle, the
bleating of sheep, the cooing of doves, mingled with the chinking of
coin and angry disputation. So great was the confusion that the
worshipers were disturbed, and the words addressed to the Most High were
drowned in the uproar that invaded the temple. The Jews were exceedingly
proud of their piety. They rejoiced over their temple, and regarded a
word spoken in its disfavor as blasphemy; they were very rigorous in the
performance of ceremonies connected with it; but the love of money had
overruled their scruples. They were scarcely aware how far they had
wandered from the original purpose of the service instituted by God
When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, the place was consecrated
by His presence. Moses was commanded to put bounds around the mount and
sanctify it, and the word of the Lord was heard in warning: "Take
heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the
border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death:
there shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot
through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live." Ex. 19:12,
13. Thus was taught the lesson that wherever God manifests His presence,
the place is holy. The precincts of God's temple should have been
regarded as sacred. But in the strife for gain, all this was lost sight
The priests and rulers were called to be the representatives of God
to the nation; they should have corrected the abuses of the temple
court. They should have given to the people an example of integrity and
compassion. Instead of studying their own profit, they should have
considered the situation and needs of the worshipers, and should have
been ready to assist those who were not able to buy the required
sacrifices. But this they did not do. Avarice had hardened their hearts.
There came to this feast those who were suffering, those who were in
want and distress. The blind, the lame, the deaf, were there. Some were
brought on beds. Many came who were too poor to purchase the humblest
offering for the Lord, too poor even to buy food with which to satisfy
their own hunger. These were greatly distressed by the statements of the
priests. The priests boasted of their piety; they claimed to be the
guardians of the people; but they were without sympathy or compassion.
The poor, the sick, the dying, made their vain plea for favor. Their
suffering awakened no pity in the hearts of the priests.
As Jesus came into the temple, He took in the whole scene. He saw the
unfair transactions. He saw the distress of the poor, who thought that
without shedding of blood there would be no forgiveness for their sins.
He saw the outer court of His temple converted into a place of unholy
traffic. The sacred enclosure had become one vast exchange.
Christ saw that something must be done. Numerous ceremonies were
enjoined upon the people without the proper instruction as to their
import. The worshipers offered their sacrifices without understanding
that they were typical of the only perfect Sacrifice. And among them,
unrecognized and unhonored, stood the One symbolized by all their
service. He had given directions in regard to the offerings. He
understood their symbolical value, and He saw that they were now
perverted and misunderstood. Spiritual worship was fast disappearing. No
link bound the priests and rulers to their God. Christ's work was to
establish an altogether different worship.
With searching glance, Christ takes in the scene before Him as He
stands upon the steps of the temple court. With prophetic eye He looks
into futurity, and sees not only years, but centuries and ages. He sees
how priests and rulers will turn the needy from their right, and forbid
that the gospel shall be preached to the poor. He sees how the love of
God will be concealed from sinners, and men will make merchandise of His
grace. As He beholds the scene, indignation, authority, and power are
expressed in His countenance. The attention of the people is attracted
to Him. The eyes of those engaged in their unholy traffic are riveted
upon His face. They cannot withdraw their gaze. They feel that this Man
reads their inmost thoughts, and discovers their hidden motives. Some
attempt to conceal their faces, as if their evil deeds were written upon
their countenances, to be scanned by those searching eyes.
The confusion is hushed. The sound of traffic and bargaining has
ceased. The silence becomes painful. A sense of awe overpowers the
assembly. It is as if they were arraigned before the tribunal of God to
answer for their deeds. Looking upon Christ, they behold divinity flash
through the garb of humanity. The Majesty of heaven stands as the Judge
will stand at the last day,--not now encircled with the glory that will
then attend Him, but with the same power to read the soul. His eye
sweeps over the multitude, taking in every individual. His form seems to
rise above them in commanding dignity, and a divine light illuminates
His countenance. He speaks, and His clear, ringing voice--the same that
upon Mount Sinai proclaimed the law that priests and rulers are
transgressing--is heard echoing through the arches of the temple:
"Take these things hence; make not My Father's house an house of
Slowly descending the steps, and raising the scourge of cords
gathered up on entering the enclosure, He bids the bargaining company
depart from the precincts of the temple. With a zeal and severity He has
never before manifested, He overthrows the tables of the money-changers.
The coin falls, ringing sharply upon the marble pavement. None presume
to question His authority. None dare stop to gather up their ill-gotten
gain. Jesus does not smite them with the whip of cords, but in His hand
that simple scourge seems terrible as a flaming sword. Officers of the
temple, speculating priests, brokers and cattle traders, with their
sheep and oxen, rush from the place, with the one thought of escaping
from the condemnation of His presence.
A panic sweeps over the multitude, who feel the overshadowing of His
divinity. Cries of terror escape from hundreds of blanched lips. Even
the disciples tremble. They are awestruck by the words and manner of
Jesus, so unlike His usual demeanor. They remember that it is written of
Him, "The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up." Ps. 69:9.
Soon the tumultuous throng with their merchandise are far removed from
the temple of the Lord. The courts are free from unholy traffic, and a
deep silence and solemnity settles upon the scene of confusion.
The presence of the Lord, that of old sanctified the mount, has now
made sacred the temple reared in His honor.
In the cleansing of the temple, Jesus was announcing His mission as
the Messiah, and entering upon His work. That temple, erected for the
abode of the divine Presence, was designed to be an object lesson for
Israel and for the world. From eternal ages it was God's purpose that
every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a
temple for the indwelling of the Creator. Because of sin, humanity
ceased to be a temple for God. Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart
of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One. But by the
incarnation of the Son of God, the purpose of Heaven is fulfilled. God
dwells in humanity, and through saving grace the heart of man becomes
again His temple. God designed that the temple at Jerusalem should be a
continual witness to the high destiny open to every soul. But the Jews
had not understood the significance of the building they regarded with
so much pride. They did not yield themselves as holy temples for the
Divine Spirit. The courts of the temple at Jerusalem, filled with the
tumult of unholy traffic, represented all too truly the temple of the
heart, defiled by the presence of sensual passion and unholy thoughts.
In cleansing the temple from the world's buyers and sellers, Jesus
announced His mission to cleanse the heart from the defilement of
sin,--from the earthly desires, the selfish lusts, the evil habits, that
corrupt the soul. "The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to
His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in:
behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the
day of His coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like
a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: and He shall sit as a refiner
and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge
them as gold and silver." Mal. 3:1-3.
"Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit
of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall
God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." 1
Cor. 3:16, 17. No man can of himself cast out the evil throng that have
taken possession of the heart. Only Christ can cleanse the soul temple.
But He will not force an entrance. He comes not into the heart as to the
temple of old; but He says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and
knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to
him." Rev. 3:20. He will come, not for one day merely; for He says,
"I will dwell in them, and walk in them; . . . and they shall be My
people." "He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast
all their sins into the depths of the sea." 2 Cor. 6:16; Micah
7:19. His presence will cleanse and sanctify the soul, so that it may be
a holy temple unto the Lord, and "an habitation of God through the
Spirit." Eph. 2:21, 22.
Overpowered with terror, the priests and rulers had fled from the
temple court, and from the searching glance that read their hearts. In
their flight they met others on their way to the temple, and bade them
turn back, telling them what they had seen and heard. Christ looked upon
the fleeing men with yearning pity for their fear, and their ignorance
of what constituted true worship. In this scene He saw symbolized the
dispersion of the whole Jewish nation for their wickedness and
And why did the priests flee from the temple? Why did they not stand
their ground? He who commanded them to go was a carpenter's son, a poor
Galilean, without earthly rank or power. Why did they not resist Him?
Why did they leave the gain so ill acquired, and flee at the command of
One whose outward appearance was so humble?
Christ spoke with the authority of a king, and in His appearance, and
in the tones of His voice, there was that which they had no power to
resist. At the word of command they realized, as they had never realized
before, their true position as hypocrites and robbers. When divinity
flashed through humanity, not only did they see indignation on Christ's
countenance; they realized the import of His words. They felt as if
before the throne of the eternal Judge, with their sentence passed on
them for time and for eternity. For a time they were convinced that
Christ was a prophet; and many believed Him to be the Messiah. The Holy
Spirit flashed into their minds the utterances of the prophets
concerning Christ. Would they yield to this conviction?
Repent they would not. They knew that Christ's sympathy for the poor
had been aroused. They knew that they had been guilty of extortion in
their dealings with the people. Because Christ discerned their thoughts
they hated Him. His public rebuke was humiliating to their pride, and
they were jealous of His growing influence with the people. They
determined to challenge Him as to the power by which He had driven them
forth, and who gave Him this power.
Slowly and thoughtfully, but with hate in their hearts, they returned
to the temple. But what a change had taken place during their absence!
When they fled, the poor remained behind; and these were now looking
to Jesus, whose countenance expressed His love and sympathy. With tears
in His eyes, He said to the trembling ones around Him: Fear not; I will
deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me. For this cause came I into the
The people pressed into Christ's presence with urgent, pitiful
appeals: Master, bless me. His ear heard every cry. With pity exceeding
that of a tender mother He bent over the suffering little ones. All
received attention. Everyone was healed of whatever disease he had. The
dumb opened their lips in praise; the blind beheld the face of their
Restorer. The hearts of the sufferers were made glad.
As the priests and temple officials witnessed this great work, what a
revelation to them were the sounds that fell on their ears! The people
were relating the story of the pain they had suffered, of their
disappointed hopes, of painful days and sleepless nights. When the last
spark of hope seemed to be dead, Christ had healed them. The burden was
so heavy, one said; but I have found a helper. He is the Christ of God,
and I will devote my life to His service. Parents said to their
children, He has saved your life; lift up your voice and praise Him. The
voices of children and youth, fathers and mothers, friends and
spectators, blended in thanksgiving and praise. Hope and gladness filled
their hearts. Peace came to their minds. They were restored soul and
body, and they returned home, proclaiming everywhere the matchless love
At the crucifixion of Christ, those who had thus been healed did not
join with the rabble throng in crying, "Crucify Him, crucify
Him." Their sympathies were with Jesus; for they had felt His great
sympathy and wonderful power. They knew Him to be their Saviour; for He
had given them health of body and soul. They listened to the preaching
of the apostles, and the entrance of God's word into their hearts gave
them understanding. They became agents of God's mercy, and instruments
of His salvation.
The crowd that had fled from the temple court after a time slowly
drifted back. They had partially recovered from the panic that had
seized them, but their faces expressed irresolution and timidity. They
looked with amazement on the works of Jesus, and were convicted that in
Him the prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled. The sin of the
desecration of the temple rested, in a great degree, upon the priests.
It was by their arrangement that the court had been turned into a market
place. The people were comparatively innocent. They were impressed by
the divine authority of Jesus; but with them the influence of the
priests and rulers was paramount. They regarded Christ's mission as an
innovation, and questioned His right to interfere with what was
permitted by the authorities of the temple. They were offended because
the traffic had been interrupted, and they stifled the convictions of
the Holy Spirit.
Above all others the priests and rulers should have seen in Jesus the
anointed of the Lord; for in their hands were the sacred scrolls that
described His mission, and they knew that the cleansing of the temple
was a manifestation of more than human power. Much as they hated Jesus,
they could not free themselves from the thought that He might be a
prophet sent by God to restore the sanctity of the temple. With a
deference born of this fear, they went to Him with the inquiry,
"What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these
Jesus had shown them a sign. In flashing light into their hearts, and
in doing before them the works which the Messiah was to do, He had given
convincing evidence of His character. Now when they asked for a sign, He
answered them by a parable, showing that He read their malice, and saw
to what lengths it would lead them. "Destroy this temple," He
said, "and in three days I will raise it up."
In these words His meaning was twofold. He referred not only to the
destruction of the Jewish temple and worship, but to His own death,--the
destruction of the temple of His body. This the Jews were already
plotting. As the priests and rulers returned to the temple, they had
proposed to kill Jesus, and thus rid themselves of the troubler. Yet
when He set before them their purpose, they did not understand Him. They
took His words as applying only to the temple at Jerusalem, and with
indignation exclaimed, "Forty and six years was this temple in
building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?" Now they felt
that Jesus had justified their unbelief, and they were confirmed in
their rejection of Him.
Christ did not design that His words should be understood by the
unbelieving Jews, nor even by His disciples at this time. He knew that
they would be misconstrued by His enemies, and would be turned against
Him. At His trial they would be brought as an accusation, and on Calvary
they would be flung at Him as a taunt. But to explain them now would
give His disciples a knowledge of His sufferings, and bring upon them
sorrow which as yet they were not able to bear. And an explanation would
prematurely disclose to the Jews the result of their prejudice and
unbelief. Already they had entered upon a path which they would steadily
pursue until He should be led as a lamb to the slaughter.
It was for the sake of those who should believe on Him that these
words of Christ were spoken. He knew that they would be repeated. Being
spoken at the Passover, they would come to the ears of thousands, and be
carried to all parts of the world. After He had risen from the dead,
their meaning would be made plain. To many they would be conclusive
evidence of His divinity.
Because of their spiritual darkness, even the disciples of Jesus
often failed of comprehending His lessons. But many of these lessons
were made plain to them by subsequent events. When He walked no more
with them, His words were a stay to their hearts.
As referring to the temple at Jerusalem, the Saviour's words,
"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,"
had a deeper meaning than the hearers perceived. Christ was the
foundation and life of the temple. Its services were typical of the
sacrifice of the Son of God. The priesthood was established to represent
the mediatorial character and work of Christ. The entire plan of
sacrificial worship was a foreshadowing of the Saviour's death to redeem
the world. There would be no efficacy in these offerings when the great
event toward which they had pointed for ages was consummated.
Since the whole ritual economy was symbolical of Christ, it had no
value apart from Him. When the Jews sealed their rejection of Christ by
delivering Him to death, they rejected all that gave significance to the
temple and its services. Its sacredness had departed. It was doomed to
destruction. From that day sacrificial offerings and the service
connected with them were meaningless. Like the offering of Cain, they
did not express faith in the Saviour. In putting Christ to death, the
Jews virtually destroyed their temple. When Christ was crucified, the
inner veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom,
signifying that the great final sacrifice had been made, and that the
system of sacrificial offerings was forever at an end.
"In three days I will raise it up." In the Saviour's death
the powers of darkness seemed to prevail, and they exulted in their
victory. But from the rent sepulcher of Joseph, Jesus came forth a
conqueror. "Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a
show of them openly, triumphing over them." Col.2:15. By virtue of
His death and resurrection He became the minister of the "true
tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man." Heb. 8:2. Men
reared the Jewish tabernacle; men builded the Jewish temple; but the
sanctuary above, of which the earthly was a type, was built by no human
architect. "Behold the Man whose name is The Branch; . . . He shall
build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit
and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His
throne." Zech. 6:12, 13.
The sacrificial service that had pointed to Christ passed away; but
the eyes of men were turned to the true sacrifice for the sins of the
world. The earthly priesthood ceased; but we look to Jesus, the minister
of the new covenant, and "to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh
better things than that of Abel." "The way into the holiest of
all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet
standing: . . . but Christ being come an high priest of good things to
come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, . .
. by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having
obtained eternal redemption for us." Heb. 12:24; 9:8-12.
"Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that
come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for
them." Heb. 7:25. Though the ministration was to be removed from
the earthly to the heavenly temple; though the sanctuary and our great
high priest would be invisible to human sight, yet the disciples were to
suffer no loss thereby. They would realize no break in their communion,
and no diminution of power because of the Saviour's absence. While Jesus
ministers in the sanctuary above, He is still by His Spirit the minister
of the church on earth. He is withdrawn from the eye of sense, but His
parting promise is fulfilled, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto
the end of the world." Matt. 28:20. While He delegates His power to
inferior ministers, His energizing presence is still with His church.
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, . . . Jesus, the
Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high
priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but
was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us
therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain
mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Heb 4:14-16.
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