Notes: July 24, 2009

“Turning the tables on religious merchandising”

Is there any religion which does not give rise to trinkets, baubles, curios, images and idols? Judaism in Jesus’ day birthed entrepreneurs who marketed sheep and oxen, and some even established foreign currency exchanges. Having animals for sacrifice was a requirement. Being able to purchase them in Jerusalem was a convenience. Having the proper currency for offerings was a requirement. Being able to change your foreign currency in Jerusalem was a convenience. What was it that bothered Jesus on this day?

John 2:12-22

  • After the wedding (and miracle) in Cana, Jesus went to Capernaum with Mary, his disciples (How many were there, 5 or 6?), and his brothers (v. 12). Were these “brothers” actually cousins, some of whom later became disciples?
  • In the spring, Jesus went to Jerusalem for passover (v. 13). He had gone every year with Joseph and Mary. The law required it. And Jesus always kept the law.
  • There he found in the temple (v. 14) an active trade in animals for sacrifice and coins for offering. Jesus chased away the animals, overturned the money-changer’s tables, and ordered the caged doves to be carried away. Note that no animals were hurt or lost, and no money taken.
  • Jesus wanted the temple, which he considered His Father’s house, to stop being a place of ordinary commerce (v. 16). Capitalism and enterprise are not evil. It was the confusion of commercialism with worship which was wrong. Yes, we should read the Bible. Yes, it’s convenient to have Bibles displayed and available for purchase at church. But is it any different from merchandise in the temple? Is it right?
  • The disciples recognized (v. 17) that Jesus’ actions were in keeping with Psalm 69:9 .
  • The Jews (v. 18) demanded proof, a sign, that Jesus was authorized to protest the on-site merchandising of religious paraphernalia. Note that in the gospel of John “the Jews” are not always naive, innocent seekers of truth.
  • Jesus answered that He would raise up “this temple” three days after they destroyed it (v.19). The Jews protested that it would be impossible for him to do so (v. 20).
  • We learn that Jesus, as so often, was not speaking in a plain literal sense, but in a plain spiritual sense; and that he was referring to his resurrection from the dead three days after his death (v. 21-22). Note that early in his public ministry Jesus begins to speak about his resurrection from the dead. As we continue reading the gospels, watch how be slowly reveals more details about his death and resurrection. To him it would not be a surprise.
  • Some three years later, after the resurrection, the disciples remembered this day and the words which Jesus spoke. Fulfilled prophecy sparked faith within them (v. 22).