14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.John 2:14-22
A. [John 2:19-22] Raising the Temple
The Jews in the time of Jesus had an obsession about miraculous signs. They were faced with conflicting feelings about the state of their nation for after forty-six years the temple was completed but what had started because Herod the Great wanted to prove his Jewishness was being finished under direct Roman Rule. Herod had gained the collaboration of the chief priests by using Bible-stipulated, temple construction rules; but now the Roman Procurators were changing who was to be High Priest from year to year. The restored temple was the stabilising factor after a thousand years of turbulent history and now Jesus seemed to be talking about them destroying the temple they had built. They objected.
It was only after the event, when … he was raised from the dead, [that] his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. This figures because their difficulty beforehand was not being able to get their heads round the significance of “three days”. Of course Jesus meant the temple of his body — what else could have been meant?
But there is a challenge for us to look at the signs Jesus did with resurrection glasses on, so to speak. The miracles were sometimes enigmatic and many of his ‘hard sayings’, obscure; but they were never capriciously so. The key to understanding is simple:-
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,1 Corinthians 15:3f.
If we lament that the signs of the apostles are not seen today as they were in the early church, remember that all the signs of church discipline — baptism; Bible teaching; fellowship; the breaking of bread; prayers; readiness; and worldwide mission [c.f. Acts 2:41-47] — are signposts to the death, resurrection and second advent of Jesus Christ.
B. [John 2:14-17] Cleansing the Temple
Rather than describing Jesus overturning the seats of those who sold pigeons, John reports what he said to them: “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” John’s account of the cleansing of the temple is moved away from its place in time because the beginning of his Gospel is where John the Apostle majors on Jesus coming to his own. If you like, the cleansing of the temple is an unparallelled territorial claim; the disciples found their minds turned to Ps. 69:9 – “Zeal for your house will consume me.” but the resurrection implications escaped them until after the event. If Jesus had not cleansed the temple in this way the apostles would not have been able to be there daily; and the church would not have grown in increments of thousands from Pentecost onwards.
C. [John 2:18] Seeking significance
In their indignation, the temple leaders came close to incoherence: “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Unable to see any significance in Jesus calling the temple “my Father’s house” they fell back to their default demand of “show us a sign.” “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” But just because they were shown signs does not mean that all were satisfied. They were not convinced when the only thing the false witnesses could agree upon at the trial was that Jesus had threatened to destroy the temple which they knew he hadn’t said. They weren’t convinced when the Apostles were teaching about the Resurrection daily in Solomon’s Portico (where incidently many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles.) They weren’t even convinced when the news of the empty tomb was spreading among the citizens of Jerusalem. Foolish not to see the sign they asked for but even more foolish for us to laugh at them while doing nothing about what has since become plain to us.