Title: The possession of the temple
Scriptures to Read: Read John 2:12-25
Jesus openly begins his public ministry at this first Passover
Verse 13 mentions the Passover. This is the first of four Passovers mentioned during his public ministry. And four Passovers make up three years. He was baptized somewhere between 4 and six months previously, and that is why we consider his ministry to last about three and a half years. His public ministry lasts exactly three years from this Passover until the last Passover. The Passover in Jerusalem was the ideal time and place to begin His public ministry. Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem. At this particular Passover Jesus begins His public ministry, going public in two ways.
1. He publicly claimed to be the Messiah (Vv17-22)
2. He begins to perform His miracles in public (Vv23-25)
From this point onward until the nation of Israel rejects Him in Matthew 12, the purpose of his miracles is to serve as signs for Israel, to get Israel to make a decision concerning his Messianic claims. The miracles recorded until then were performed to authenticate two things:
1. First of all, his person, that he is the Messiah the prophets spoke about.
2. Secondly, his message: he is offering to Israel the kingdom spoken of by the Jewish prophets.
If they will accept him as the messianic king they will see the kingdom established in their day, but no such kingdom could be established until they first own him to be their messianic king.
Annas the hoarder of money
When He comes to the Passover, what does He find in the temple? He sees two things: those who are selling sacrifices, and those who are changing money. This was all the business of one man, Annas. He was a Sadducee and he turned the temple compound into a private family business. He made his sons the treasurers, and his sons-in-law assistant treasurers. Josephus, a first century historian, defines him as being a hoarder of money, very rich, and despoiling the other people by violence. Any common priest that would object to the actions that he performs would be beaten up.
A corrupt sacrificial system of the sons of Annas
According to the Mosaic Law they had the perfect right to bring their own sacrifice into the temple compound. However, it had to be without spot or blemish, and therefore it had to be inspected by the priesthood before it could be sacrificed. If you chose to bring your own sacrifice the priests, who were working on behalf of Annas, would simply find something wrong with your sacrifice. You had two options. You could go back home and get another one, and if you lived near Jerusalem that would be possible. But if you lived up in Galilee, which was a three-day journey, a six-day round trip, that would not be practical. So in one part of the temple compound they had these stalls erected with sacrificial animals already stamped with the Sadducees stamp of approval. You could purchase your sacrifice from them and they were sold at highly inflated prices. And the money went into the pockets of Annas and his family.
The bazar of the sons of Annas
The second thing is the money changers, because the Passover time is the time when everybody had to pay their half shekel temple tax. Now because the Romans were ruling the country they were using Roman coins as legal coins. But Jews could not use that money to give to the temple treasury because they had images of the Caesars. And so they had to change the money into temple currency. There was always a service charge that was charged in the exchange, and this also went to Annas and his family. The Pharisees did not like this either and in the Pharisaic writings it is called the Bazar of the sons of Annas.
Jesus drives out the sellers of sacrifices and the money changers
How did Jesus respond to what He found? Jesus, using his authority, begins to drive the sellers of sacrifices out and overturning the money changers’ tables. He even pulled out a whip and began scourging them out of the temple compound. They have turned the house of God into a house of merchandise. In verse 17, the disciples applied to this to the statement of Psalm 69:9: “For zeal for Your house has consumed me”. More literally this is “My zeal for your house will be the cause of my destruction”.
Jesus predicts His own death and resurrection in 3 years’ time
The Sadducees then come to him and ask by what authority does He do these things. He gives a cryptic answer in verse 19: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” He is talking about his body, but at this point they do not yet understand what he is saying. They pointed out that the temple was already 46 years in the building. In fact, it won’t be completed until about six years before it was destroyed in AD 70.