John 2:16
High purposes were subserved by the exercise of the Saviour's authority both at the beginning and at the close of his ministry. If there was in this conduct an evidential meaning for the Jews, there was also a symbolical meaning for all time.


1. The true answer to this inquiry is to be found in the language of the Lord himself. The temple was his Father's house. It was the building which was originally erected in a measure upon the model of the tabernacle of the wilderness, the pattern of which had been communicated by Jehovah in some way to Moses, the servant of God. It was by Divine command that a certain special locality and building were set apart and consecrated to the service of him, who nevertheless "dwelleth not in temples made with hands."

2. The holy memories of national history gathered around this sacred edifice. The original tabernacle was associated with Moses and Aaron; the first temple at Jerusalem with the great kings - David who prepared for it, and Solomon who built it; the second temple with the great leaders of the return from the Captivity; and this restored edifice, in its costly magnificence, with the royal Herodian house.

3. The sacrifices which were offered, the priesthoods that ministered, the festivals which were observed, the praises and prayers which were presented, in these consecrated precincts, all added to the sanctity of the place.

4. And it must be remembered that the house of the Father was the house of the children; that our Lord himself designated the temple "a house of prayer for all nations. This may not have been acknowledged or understood by the Jews themselves. Yet there were intimations throughout their sacred literature in its successive stages that they, as a nation, were elected in order that through them all the nations of the earth might be blessed. The width of the counsels of Divine benevolence is apparent to all who study the psalms and prophecies of the Old Testament Scripture; and our Lord's language connects those counsels with the dedicated house at Jerusalem.

5. To our minds the temple possesses sanctity through its devotion to a symbolical use, for by anticipation it set forth in emblem the holiness of our Lord's body and the purity of the spiritual Church of Christ. The temple at Jerusalem should be destroyed in the crisis of Israel's fate; the sanctuary of the Lord's body should be taken down; and the holy temple, consecrated to the Lord, should grow in stateliness and beauty until all the living stones should be built into it for grace and glory eternal.

II. BY WHAT THE HOLINESS OF THE TEMPLE WAS VIOLATED. There must have been an infamous desecration in order to have awakened such indignation in the breast of Jesus. We can see two respects in which this was so.

1. The building was abused and profaned in being diverted from sacred to secular uses. Where there should have been only sacrifices, there were sales of beasts and birds; where there should have been only offerings, there was money changing.

2. The sanctity of the temple was violated by the cupidity of the rulers, who, it is well known, made a sinful and scandalous profit for themselves by the transactions which awakened the indignation of Jesus.

3. Nor was this all, injustice and fraud were added to cupidity - the temple became a den of thieves."


1. By the interposition of One of the highest dignity. Christ was "greater than the temple;" he was the Lord of the temple; nay, he was himself the true Temple appointed to supersede the material structure.

2. By the exercise of just and manifested authority. The demeanour and the language of Jesus were such as to preclude resistance, to silence murmuring. The Lord came to his own inheritance, to the house of his Father.

3. By the comparison of the edifice at Jerusalem to his own sacred body. In the language he used in his subsequent conversation with the Jews, he "spake of the Temple of his body," and in so doing he attached to the sanctuary a holiness greater than was conferred upon it by all the associations of its use and of its history. - T.

The Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
I. HIS ATTENDANCE AT THE PASSOVER, One of the three great annual festivals which all males were required to attend. None excused but the sick and the disabled. God made the ordinance peremptory, to teach —(1) That His worship and service were the chief things.(2) That God's house was to be the centre of the moral universe, and that all nations would flow to it. Christ's attendance showed —

1. His fulfilling of all righteousness. He came not to destroy.

2. His communion with believers of the Old Testament. Partaking of their sacraments, He declared Himself of one body and spirit with them, just as by instituting sacraments for New Testament believers He declared Himself of one body and spirit with them. Thus Christ is the bond of both dispensations.

3. Himself and His mission to the nation. The promise was that He should come to His temple. Here the people could identify Him if they chose.

II. THE CONDITION IN WHICH HE FOUND THE TEMPLE, AND HIS INTERFERENCE THEREWITH. The market was going on in the outer courts of the Gentiles. The sheep, etc., were sold there to save the inconvenience of individual Jews bringing their offerings from a distance. The money-changers were there, to exchange foreign money for the half-shekel of the sanctuary. The abuse consisted in making God's house a house of merchandise, in which the priests themselves profited. Christ interfered to show His official assumption and exercise of legitimate authority in His own house. The cattle were driven out, the money-tables overthrown; but the doves ordered to be taken away, so that they might not be harmed. Nothing harmful or cruel was done. In this interference we see His glory as the "Son of God" and His administrative authority as "King of Israel." Unsupported Himself, all fled before Him.


1. We have here the love of Christ, and His earnestness for their salvation and God's glory: typical of His whole work.

2. Christ's example to us.

(1)Our zeal must begin with ourselves.

(2)Must concern itself with God's honour and man's salvation.

(3)Must be actuated by love.

(A. Beith, D. D.)


1. Described. Jerusalem was in all its glory. Its inhabitants were astir in the early morning, enjoying the cool of the day and the excitement of the season. The streets were blocked by crowds from all parts, who had to make their way to the temple past flocks of sheep and droves of cattle. Sellers of all possible wares beset the pilgrim, for the feasts were the traders' harvests. Inside the temple space the noise and pressure were, if possible, worse. The outer court was in part covered with pens for sheep and oxen. It was, in fact, the yearly fair of Jerusalem, and the crowds added to the din and tumult, till the services in the neighbouring courts were sadly disturbed.

2. Accounted for. It seems strange that the priests should have permitted it, but the explanation throws light on Christ's conduct. The priests made pecuniary profit of it. The sale of doves was almost wholly in their hands, and the rent for the rest was very large. The money-changers were usurers and tricksters, and augmented the priests' revenue out of their unlawful gains.

3. Christ's indignation was, therefore, natural. He had come fresh from the manifestation of His glory, with all the enthusiasm natural to a Jewish prophet and inspired with His Divine mission, to testify to the nation as a whole where it could be best reached. Behold, then, His Father's house invaded by a troop of mercenaries and hucksters!

II. THE EXHIBITION OF CHRIST'S WONDROUS MORAL POWER. There was no physical power displayed, nor any exciting contention with the profaners of the temple. The scourge was only an emblem of power and chastisement, the sight of which was sufficient, and at which they all unresistingly fled. How could one man effect such a clearance, unknown, a Galilean, with no formal authority, priestly power, or following? It was perhaps due to the "solar light" of His countenance, behind which was the unspeakable power of perfect holiness (Matthew 17:2), which made Him attractive to the virtuous and devout, but awful to mere money-grubbers. They were dumb and helpless, because conscience-stricken, in the presence of Incarnate Righteousness.

III. THE PROFOUND SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS ACT. Spiritual cleansing. The temple may be considered as a symbol —

1. Of the heart defiled by selfishness and sin, to be cleansed by the expulsive power of Christ's love.

2. Of society or the world, to be cleansed by Christ's redeeming grace.

3. Of the Church, to be cleansed from superstition, and worldliness, and bigotry, by truth, purity, and charity.

(J. E. Flower, M. A.)

I. THE SIGN AND ITS APPLICABILITY. The temple a symbol of the temple of humanity, built of living stones. To cleanse this He entered on His ministry; and if He had a right to do the greater work, He had a right to do the lesser.


1. All men are created to form part of God's temple. The Divine idea of humanity is an organic whole — Christ the centre, the shrine; human hearts grouped round Him forming the courts. Contrast the ideal with the actual. Yet in the midst of chaos God is working out His purpose, and will not rest till the idea is realized.

2. Men have misused the courts as markets. Commerce is good, but its place is outside the heart, not inside. It defiles when it intrudes on the sanctuary. Yet how hard even in the most sacred seasons to exclude their profane associations. Business for most is more absorbing than God and His will.

3. Christ has power and authority to cleanse the courts.(1) With His scourge He may drive away the property which usurps His Father's place.(2) He may scatter the money-changers' money, and leave him at leisure to reflect with out it.(3) He may speak His orders to those who defile the sanctuary with lighter profanations through judgment and disease.

4. The time will come when the temple shall be purified. In the Revelation we see the design perfected. A city without a temple, because itself is a temple. There shall be gold there, and all the good things of the earth shall be sanctified to Divine uses.

(C. A. Goodhart, M. A.)


1. The place: the metropolis, the centre of the Theocracy, the predicted theatre of Messiah's self-revelation (Zechariah 2:10, 11; Zechariah 9:9).

2. The time: at the passover, when the paschal lamb, of which He was the antitype, was about to be offered, and when the vast crowd gathered afforded a favourably opportunity for impressing the national mind and conscience.

3. The condition of the temple: whose forecourt, reserved for the worship of proselytes, was transformed into a market and fair under the pretence of religion — a melancholy, because faithful, picture of the secularization of the Jewish religion by the Pharisees.

4. The character of Him who carried it through. The Father's Son had a right to purge His Father's house.

II. SUPERNATURAL. As much so as the turning of water into wine. The manifest insufficiency of the means places it in the same category as John 18:6. Its suddenness also surprised, and inward consciousness of guilt paralyzed, the traders. Natural and supernatural causes were thus combined.

III. SIGNIFICANT. Designed to be a revelation to the ecclesiastical authorities of His Messiahship (Psalm 69:9; Malachi 3:2-6).

IV. SUGGESTIVE. Recalling to the disciples the words of the Psalmist, it confirmed their recently formed convictions.

V. ALARMING. It startled the Sanhedrim, who recognized the Messianic character of the action, but wanted to know whether He was Messiah. Secretly they must have dreaded this. But because He was different from what they expected, they declined to receive Him. They trifled with their consciences by asking for a sign. They preferred the darkness, although the light had now conspicuously dawned. Lessons:

1. The duty and privileges of the ordinances of religion. Christ at the passover.

2. The need of purity and order in the sanctuary — Christ purging the temple court.

3. The danger of a worldly spirit intruding into the domain of religion — the traders in the sacred edifice.

4. The propriety of being zealously affected in Divine service — Christ's example.

(T. Whitelaw, M. A.)

Had Christ appeared as a teacher it would have been a great benevolence: but He would hardly have had so wide-spread an influence. Teaching was only one part of His task, the other was to ordain a fellowship. So He needed to appear as the reformer of religion. The temple was the centre of religious life: here then the reformation must begin. See then the principles of Christ as a religious reformer.

I. HE DID NOT COME TO DESTROY, BUT TO PURIFY AND FINISH. But why trouble Himself about an institution that was to pass away? (John 4:24). The answer is that Jesus did wish to erect the new on the ruins of the old, but since so much depended on the old, this, when reformed, should attach itself to that. We should be like Christ in this, not to destroy but to reform and build up.

II. THE ZEAL OF THE REDEEMER WAS INTENDED TO BANISH EVERYTHING THAT MIGHT ENTANGLE MEN AGAIN IN WORLDLY THOUGHTS AND ANXIETIES. The really devout and upright as well as the frivolous might see no evil nor distracting influence in these things. The temple was large enough. All these arrangements had to do with religious life. Was it not a matter of indifference whether they were carried on within or in the neighbourhood of the temple. Those whose thoughts would be disturbed by them would be disturbed without them. But human prudence is one thing; the judgment of Christ another. Whatever draws men to and keeps men near God must be kept pure and free from desecration. The weakness of the human heart forbids the worldly and the Divine mingling with one another. The germ of the Jewish corruption lay in the mixing of the two. Let then our church, life ordained by that Lord who here cleared the temple, be free from foreign admixture.

III. WHAT RIGHT HAD CHRIST TO ACT IS THIS WAY? Did He not overstep the bounds of His authority. No, according to the free customs of that people and age it was competent to any one to assail anything that was at variance with public law. There was ever scope for honest zeal. Christ found it so, and would have us find it so and lift our voices for what is right and good, to win public opinion to them. We Christians are a priestly people called to keep pure the temple of God upon earth.


We see —

I. HOW MUCH CHRIST DISAPPROVES OF IRREVERENT BEHAVIOUR IN THE HOUSE OF GOD. Are there none who bring to church their money, their lands, their cattle, etc.; who bring their bodies only to a place of worship and are "almost in all evil, in the congregation" (Proverbs 5:14).

II. HOW MEN MAY REMEMBER WORDS OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH LONG AFTER THEY ARE SPOKEN, and may one day see in them a meaning which they now do not see (vers. 19, 22). Sermons preached to apparently heedless ears are not all lost and thrown away; nor are texts taught by teachers or parents to children. There is often a resurrection of the good seed sown after many years (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ecclesiastes 11:1).

III. HOW PERFECT IS OUR LORD'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE HUMAN HEART (vers. 24-25). He saw beneath their superficial faith that they were not disciples indeed. This thought ought to make hypocrites and false professors tremble. They may deceive men but they cannot deceive Christ. But it is a word of encouragement to real Christians.

(Bp. Ryle.)

It is impossible not to feel the change which at this point comes over the narrative.

I. There is A CHANGE.

1. Of place: Jerusalem and Cans.

2. Of occasion: the passover and the marriage feast.

3. Of manner of action: the stern Reformer and the sympathizing Guest.


1. One represents the ennobling of common life and the other the purification of Divine worship.

2. One is a revelation of the Son of peace, the other a revelation of the Christ, the Fulfiller of the hope and purpose of Israel.

(Bp. Westcott.)

Alas! that even in the restored and consecrated temple of man's soul, scenes are at times enacted, of which the sacrilege in the Jewish temple was but a feeble emblem. It is a desecration, Dot of a material building but of God's spiritual house — the merchandise, not of sheep and oxen but of sins. The pollution is not in the "outermost court of the Gentiles, but in the inmost sanctuary where God delights to dwell" — in man's heart. Too often is there rebellion, even in the believer's soul, against the authority of the Lord; and giving to Him a divided heart. Too often are the living temples thronged with carnal things, earthly affections and desires. Too often is the lowing of oxen and the bleating of sheep heard, and the tables of the money Changers planted, within the precincts of God's house. Alas! how often is the silent and solemn devotion of the believer's heart distracted by the noise of conflicting passions, and its purity defiled by low and grovelling affections. Holy thoughts and desires, like the poor, despised Gentiles, are turned out of their proper place, and thrust into a corner. Oh, this is monstrous incongruity. Have you not here a temple which you have sacrilegiously profaned; and has not your passion for sordid gain and worldly occupation so entirely engaged and absorbed you, that all your feelings and faculties seem to be expended on earthly vanities, and your affections settled down to the dust? You profane that which God has made holy — that which He has set apart for Himself, and where He would delight to dwell. "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves."

(W. Chalmers, M. A.)

in the temple are those who pursue secular interests in the church; and God's house is made a house of merchandise, not only by those who seek to obtain money or praise, or honour by means of holy orders, but .by those also who exercise the sacred ministry, or dispense sacred gifts, with a view to human rewards and not with simplicity of intention.

(Bp. Wordsworth.)

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