Trouble at the Temple

Under the Mosaic Law even when Jesus walked the earth, Jewish men were expected to attend three feasts celebrated at the temple in Jerusalem—the Feasts of Passover (and Unleavened Bread), Pentecost (or Weeks), and Tabernacles (or Booths).

These were important as memorials of God's faithfulness to His people at pivotal points in their history. They were also events that held greater meaning and significance for the future of those who trust in the God of Israel—the Living God.

As with many events and miraculous signs in John's gospel, this event at the end of Chapter 2 was illustrative of the Lord's ministry on earth with eternal impact and significance.

At each of these feasts, stalls were set up to sell animals suitable for required offerings and sacrifices. The vendors and their patrons made a profit on these sales. Not only was Jesus physically protesting their manipulative marketing He was making a statement of immediate and future importance.


The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. He found those who were selling cattle, sheep, and pigeons in the temple courtyard. He also found moneychangers sitting there. He made a whip from small ropes and threw everyone with their sheep and cattle out of the temple courtyard. He dumped the moneychangers’ coins and knocked over their tables.

He told those who sold pigeons, “Pick up this stuff, and get it out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that Scripture said, “Devotion for your house will consume me.” [vss 13-17]

The Jews reacted by asking Jesus, “What miracle can you show us to justify what you’re doing?” Jesus replied, “Tear down this temple, and I’ll rebuild it in three days.” The Jews said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple. Do you really think you’re going to rebuild it in three days?”

But the temple Jesus spoke about was his own body. After he came back to life, his disciples remembered that he had said this. So they believed the Scripture and this statement that Jesus had made.

While Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover festival, many people believed in him because they saw the miracles that he performed. Jesus, however, was wary of these believers. He understood people and didn’t need anyone to tell him about human nature. He knew what people were really like. [vss 18-25]

(John 2:13-25 GW)


Key phrase—

"Tear down this temple, and I’ll rebuild it in three days"

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What event did Jesus attend and where was it taking place?

  • How is what takes place in the Temple described and how does Jesus react to this?

  • Does Jesus explain why He reacts this way? Who questions Jesus about His actions?

  • What is Jesus' response to those who question Him? Is Jesus speaking of the same Temple as those who challenge Him?


This account of Jesus upending tables and clearing the Temple area took place at the beginning of His earthly ministry. He did this a second time right before He was arrested and sentenced to be crucified (Mark 11:15-19). Jesus turning over tables can also be an illustration of what God does in our life when our priorities need adjusting.

This first incidence of temple-clearing takes place for two important reasons. First, to establish the God's original intent for the temple to be a place of prayer and worship. The second reason is expressed in Jesus' response to the Jewish authorities who challenged Him.

As with so much of religion, the Jewish leaders saw the temple itself as sacred and more important than its intended purpose. Jesus was pointing to the resurrection of His physical body—"this temple"—when He spoke of "rebuilding" what they tore down at His crucifixion.

This event is an illustration of the simplicity of God's truth and its depth. Too often both are missed because we can't see past the immediate and obvious. The Jewish leaders had that problem but the disciples—the followers of Jesus—didn't. Why? They learned to trust in Jesus with childlike faith—a personal commitment and trust in Him.

Taking it to heart...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Are you surprised by what Jesus does in the Temple? Does this seem out of character for Jesus or what you would expect of Him?

  • Why do you think Jesus didn't explain what He meant to the people in the Temple?

  • Do you understand what Jesus was referring to about rebuilding the Temple in 3 days?

  • Why would Jesus be wary of those who believed because of the miracles He did?

Personalize it...

Meditate On This— The Jewish leaders saw the temple itself as sacred and forgot God's intended purpose for it. Jesus came to restore God's priorities and provide reconciliation for all humanity. What Jesus would "rebuild" was much greater than a physical building.

Prayer Focus— If you're going through a time where things seem turned upside down, ask God to show you what His priorities are for your life—ask Him to do whatever rebuilding is needed in your life.