John 2:12-22

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Jesus replaces the temple.

John 1:14 NASB95
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The word dwelt here is the verb form of the word tent or tabernacle. Literally, Jesus ‘tabernacled’ among us. John is immediately evoking temple imagery when he speaks of Jesus becoming flesh.
John 1:50–51 NASB95
50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
What do you think Jesus is referring to here?
Genesis 28:10–14 ESV
10 Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
What is Jesus claiming to replace?
He is replacing the ladder, the way to God, the thing that connects heaven and earth.
Let’s return to temple imagery. The Jewish tradition assigned the temple as the place where Heaven and Earth overlapped. God descended to occupy both the tabernacle in Exodus and the temple in Kings. It was God’s dwelling place on earth. The temple mount was also elevated, requiring people to walk up its stairs (ladder?) to reach the temple.
Now with a brief understanding of temple imagery, let’s read our passage in John 2.
John 2:12–22 ESV
12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days. 13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 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.
There is a lot going on here. Let’s talk first about the temple imagery, which we’ve already started to discuss. Jesus is equating his body to the temple, something John has already begun to elude to.
What do you think the significance of this is?
The temple was where God was. If that is now Jesus, then Jesus is the embodiment of God,
Therefore it is the human body of Jesus that uniquely manifests the Father...the living abode of God on earth, the fulfillment of all the temple meant, and the centre of all true worship...
D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 182.
Now let’s frame it with the signs, something John emphasizes throughout his Gospel. While this is not labeled as a sign by John, Jesus is asked for a sign to justify his actions. He refers to his future crucifixion/resurrection, which is the final sign in the Gospel. Coming right after the sign of the wedding in Cana (the first sign), it helps link the two together.
Knowing that the sign of the water to wine is beginning to hint at Jesus replacing the old ways with his new ways, how does that help clarify what his replacing the temple means?
The temple was the home of the sacrificial system. Jesus disrupts this and then claims that his his body is the temple at which the sacrifices happen. Again, he is replacing the old sacrificial system with his upcoming sacrifice. He is the thing that the entire Old Testament is pointing to.
Note how the ‘sign’, just like the sign of the wedding, isn’t immediately clear to those present what it specifically means. John focuses a lot of his Gospel on misunderstandings among those present and Jesus. He will then either use an aside (see 2:21-22) or some other method to clarify to the readers what is supposed to be understood.
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