In John’s gospel, this incident in Jesus’ ministry comes immediately after his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana. His disciples, having seen this miracle, trust him (John 2:11). In this reading, Jesus is at the center of the Jewish world, the Temple in Jerusalem, and he is violently challenging the use of this sacred space as a place of commerce. His actions might have been less startling to the Jews of his day since Jesus’ behavior is in line with that of the prophets. The prophets had consistently warned the people of God against diluted worship practices and taking advantage of others in trade. Here, the issue is the practice of commerce in the space set aside for worship. How have we, as church, mingled secular with sacred in our sacred space and, in doing so, made it hard for people to worship and pray with us?
Even if prophetic action like Jesus’ was less startling then than it might be now, the religious leaders needed verification of Jesus’ authority for his actions. The sign that they ask for is a sign of God’s authorization for Jesus to serve as a prophet. Jesus explained what the coming sign was, but the leaders of the Temple misunderstood. Jesus’ reply–that the sign of his authority to be both priest and prophet is that the temple, the dwelling place of God, will be torn down and then he will rebuild it in three days–can only be understood after the first Easter. The Temple of God, the place where God dwells, is uniquely in the person of Jesus. What does it look like for us, as church, to live into our acceptance of Jesus’ death and resurrection as a sign of Jesus’ authority?
Jesus’ disciples had begun to trust Jesus, but their faith would be much more robust after Jesus was raised from the dead. Then they realized that Jesus’ actions in the Temple that day were an expression of his living out Psalm 69. Jesus’ passion for the people of God is summarized by verse 9: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” As we continue through our Lenten journey, let us ask ourselves what do we as church, as those who have tasted Jesus’ authority, need to be doing in order to grow into an all-consuming zeal for God’s house in our day?
© 2015 Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, All Rights Reserved
 William Pape Wood. “John 2:13-22.” Interpretation 45 no 1 (1991): 59-63. In particular, Zechariah had prophesied that the day was coming when all of Israel would be holy to the Lord and there would be no trade taking place in the Temple (Zech 14:21).
 Richard B. Hayes, “Can the Gospels Teach Us How to Read the Old Testament?” Pro ecclesia, 11 no 4 (Fall 2002), 413-415.