John 2:12-22 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does Jesus find when He enters the temple? How does He react? See John 2:14-16 (printed below) What does this tell us about the character of Christ, the Son of God?

In the temple courts he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers sitting at their tables. (15) He made a whip out of cords and drove all the animals from the temple courts, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the moneychangers’ coins and overturned their tables. (16) To those who were selling doves he said, Take these things out of here; do not make my Father’s house into a marketplace. (John 2:14-16)

Upon entering the temple courts, Jesus found the sacred precincts occupied by peddlers and money-hungry merchants. Upon witnessing this disgraceful spectacle, the Lord Jesus fashioned a whip and proceeded to cleanse the temple. What we see here is an act of the holy Son of God when His righteous anger has been aroused. When His eyes behold His Father’s house turned into a common marketplace, instead of being maintained as a hallowed place of worship, when His eyes behold religious formality and the entertaining of sin, rather than purity of life and commitment of heart to God, the righteous indignation of the Son of God is aroused to action.

2. When the disciples witness the Lord’s act of cleansing the temple, what comes to their minds? See John 2:17 (printed below)

His disciples remembered that it was written, Zeal for your house shall consume me. (John 2:17)

Upon witnessing the Lord’s act of cleansing the temple, the disciples are immediately reminded of the words of Psalm 69:9, “Zeal for your house shall consume me.”

3. As the words of Psalm 69:9 (quoted by John in verse 17 printed above) are applied to Jesus, what does this tell us about His character?

Our Lord Jesus Christ was consumed with an all-encompassing passion for God: love for God, devotion to God—the fulfilling of the great commandment (note Deuteronomy 6:5). When it comes to the glory and honor of God, our Lord Jesus Christ is consumed with holy and godly zeal. The example He sets for us in matters of religion is not one of cold formalism or pious indifference; it is, rather, that of holy passion for God and for His honor and glory, for His house and His kingdom, for His righteousness and truth.

4. In conjunction with what annual religious festival did the cleansing of the temple take place? See John 2:13 (printed below) What did this festival commemorate?

Now it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (John 2:13)

John informs us that this act of cleansing the temple took place at the time of the Passover. What was the significance of the Passover? It was the yearly commemoration of the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of His people out of the bondage of Egypt—which itself was a representation of their deliverance out of the bondage of sin and judgment.

5. One feature of the Passover was the eating of unleavened bread (note Exodus 12:15 printed below). What do you suppose was the spiritual significance of the removal of leaven from the Israelites’ houses? What connection do you see between the removal of leaven and the Lord’s cleansing of the temple?

For seven days you are to eat unleavened bread. On the first day remove the leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything with leaven in it from the first day through the seventh shall be cut off from Israel. (Exodus 12:15)

The annual Passover was not only commemorating the Lord’s miraculous deliverance of His people from Egyptian bondage, it was also the reminder that the people of God are to be wholly consecrated to their Lord and Savior. The removal of leaven from the Israelites’ houses was intended to symbolically impress upon them the fact that they were called to be God’s holy people, purged from the corruption of sin. The Lord’s act of cleansing the temple was a literal purging of His house when it had become defiled with the sinful elements of greed and materialism. By means of this act the Lord was calling His people to purify their lives in anticipation of His coming so as to be able to entertain His holy presence (note Malachi 3:1b-3.)