John 2:13-22 – Sacrificing one's zeal for material things

Updated: Jun 27

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After 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.


This is the Gospel reading selection for the third Sunday in Lent, Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This reading by a priest [if the Church allows its priests to speak before human beings] will follow a reading from Exodus 20, stating the Ten Commandments; also, a singing of Psalm 19, where is said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold.” Immediately before this Gospel reading is read from Pauls’ first letter to the Christians of Corinth, where he spoke of the wisdom of God being foolishness to the wise.

This reading from John’s Gospel is similar to that found stated by Matthew, in his Gospel (Matthew 21:12-13). It is important to realize the two similar events are not the same one event. This reading from John takes place after he told of Jesus moving to Capernaum from Nazareth [following the wedding in Cana]. This is then Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem as a rabbi in ministry. The account told by Matthew takes place after Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, in his final visit for the Passover. This says two things: first, Jesus acted the same during each visit to Jerusalem, because Jerusalem acted the same each year; and second, it says the disciples of Jesus [then only a few] each went to Jerusalem separate from Jesus, each with their own families and not as followers of Jesus. The Passover is a time to recognize oneself being a follower of Yahweh and nothing less.

In verse 13, where it is translated “Jesus went up to Jerusalem,” it is easy to see these words as directional, such as Jesus traveled north to Jerusalem. That is not the meaning intended by John writing the word “anebē,” where the infinitive verb “anabainó” means “I go up, mount, ascend; of things: I rise, spring up, come up.” (Strong's) In the logistical sense, to say Jesus “went up” means he went to the Temple Mount, which means he walked up steps to where the temple was built on Mount Moriah. Still, the logistics is not the deeper meaning of that word being used.

In John’s second chapter, at the wedding in Cana, Jesus had told his mother, “My hour has not yet come.” When Jesus traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover, he had done that many times before, as one of many Jews in pilgrimage. However, at this time Jesus rose from a pilgrim to a rabbi of Yahweh, as the Son of man. Therefore, with that understanding grasped, everything that follows in this reading is based on Jesus having become spiritually elevated to the voice of God, who the Jews believed lived in the Temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah.

In verse 14 are found four uses of the marker word “kai,” which is written not as a simple conjunction [“and”] but as a word that denotes importance to follow that marker, which needs to be grasped. When verse 14 is broken down into its parts or segments of words, separated by the word “kai” and commas, the verse is found to have greater impact when read slowly, as:

kai he found in the temple those selling oxen” ,

kai sheep” ,

kai doves” ,

kai the money changers sitting” .

The uses of “kai” have to be seen as a word that says, “slow down and think about these things.” When one does that, one can begin to get the scene physically, especially if one has gone to a petting zoo, a zoo for exotic animals, or even better – a farm or ranch, where one knows that livestock are mindless creatures. One certainly has to be careful where one steps and the smell of manure is not conducive for prayer and worship. In fact, a priest once told us parishioners that the use of incense in the early church was due to the meetings of Christians being held in barns [they had no cathedrals then] and the incense was used to mask the odor in the barn or stable. By reading the presentations of “kai” as John [and all other divine authors of Scripture] saying, “I write not to stutter, but to make important things be known," one can see Jesus doing some housecleaning when faced with holy ground being like some livestock exchange.

Verse 15 also contains four uses of “kai” and therefore acts the same way, such that one needs to slow down and see the importance of stages of actions done by Jesus. Here, those segments of words appear as this:

kai having constructed a whip of ropes” ,

“all he drove out from the temple” ,

“this both sheep” ,

kai those oxen” ;

kai from those money changers he poured out the coins” ,

kai whose tables he overthrew” .

In this verse beginning with Jesus making a whip out of ropes, one must be reading slowly enough to be there, standing by Jesus, watching him go from sheep to sheep and from ox to ox, releasing each from a rope restraint that kept them each tied in place. Then, with a few of those ropes held onto, Jesus used then as a whip to motivate the untied beasts to run away from the Temple courtyard, fleeing into the outer reaching of the mount. With the animals running away, the merchants saw their possessions leaving them, so they would have naturally gotten up from their seats and run after their animals. While they were busy chasing animals, they left unattended their baskets of coins, which Jesus lifted up like cups and slowly allowed the coins to flow out like water, probably on top of piles of dung, as if washing the place clean with money. Then, with those acts complete and the vendors still trying to catch their livestock, Jesus overturned all the tables, as a statement that said, “Shop closed.”

It is important to see the uses of “kai” as necessary to show the time of a real event having taken place. To read verse 15 all in one breath is to give the impression that Jesus waved a wand and all that is stated happened all at once. That impression comes from reading “and” as just a word that says “and all this happened then.”

Verse 16 is then focus placed on those vendors who sold doves, which would have been kept in cages and not set free by Jesus. Here, it should be noted that when the mother of Jesus went to the temple to be purified after having given birth to Jesus, Joseph purchased two doves, “to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord.” (Luke 2:24a) That says it was standard practice for one to bring his own hooved beast for sacrifice [not purchase one there], but as a substitute for the poor or travelers birds could be offered. Still, the sales of those birds would have been outside the temple proper, which was not the case when Jesus came this day. One can imagine how someone giving vendors selling sheep and oxen access to the temple proper, those selling birds would have followed the crowd, not to be left out. Thus, verse 16 tells how Jesus also demanded the dove sellers to go back to where their rightful place was and “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” [The use of exclamation points are those of the NRSV and presumably for making it match the mood of Jesus being upset.]

It is in verse 17 that confusion comes from the translation by the NRSV, saying “His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”' First of all, this translation misrepresents the word “mathētai” [meaning “learners, disciples, pupils”] as the disciples that would later specifically number twelve lead disciples, who attended to the needs of Jesus as he taught them how to become rabbis. Because no other recollection of this first Passover event is written in either Mark of Matthew, as occurring at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus had none of the six disciples named up to that point in time with him [Peter, Andrew, James and John of Zebedee, Philip, and Nathaniel-Bartholomew]. Second, it implies that someone other than Jesus recalled a Scripture verse AND that verse falsely gives the impression it spoke of Jesus having zeal. All of this is the wrong impression to take, as it confuses the reading.

The Greek written by John states: “Emnēsthēsan hoi mathētai autou hoti gegrammenon estin : Ho zēlos tou oikou sou kataphagetai me .” Before addressing the literal translation, it is important to see this verse contains two capitalized words: Emnēsthēsan and Ho. Each of those two words must be seen as capitalized for the purpose of showing importance in their meaning, beyond a normal way of understanding a lower-case word. Capitalization is like the use of “kai,” but rather than introducing concepts that are important, capitalization elevates one word to a divine level of meaning; and, that is important to note.

With that stated, the literal translation of the Greek then states, “Called to mind this learners of him what has come to pass : That zeal of this house of you will devour me .”

As to the capitalized word “Emnēsthēsan,” it is the aorist passive indicative, 3rd person plural form of the verb “mimnéskó,” which means “I remember, call to mind, recall, mention.” If this word were written in the lower-case, it could be possible to see some minion disciple watch Jesus clear merchants from the temple and then blurt out a quote from Scripture; but because the word is capitalized, it is spoken by Jesus, as the word of God having “Called to mind” something relative to God Almighty. Therefore, God speaking through Jesus was not some private soliloquy, but God preaching to Jewish ears on the heads of those who were captivated by Jesus, some of whom might well have become “pupils” of Jesus, as his new “disciples.”

The Greek word “gegrammenon” is translated simply as “written,” meaning God spoke through Jesus “Reminding” those who watched everything taking place of words they all knew by memorization. Still, the words spoken were said as a prophecy “written” would be “Remembered,” as that which “has come to pass.” As a quote from Scripture, that acted as a prophecy unfolding before their eyes with what Jesus had been witnessed doing. Thus, the meaning of the root word “graphó” says God spoke through Jesus as a way of pointing out “it stands as written what is now happening.”

The quote comes from Psalm 69:9a, where the whole of verses 8 and 9 say “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.” Just as David was filled with the Holy Spirit when he wrote those lyrics, so too was Jesus when he spoke of God “Reminding” those who listened that making the temple a marketplace is destroying their relationship with God. God told David that being zealous was devouring the relationship the Israelites had with their God, meaning being zealous was selfish. The “zeal” was not to be found of Jesus, from clearing out the temple of evildoers, but it was the “zeal” of the evildoers who took up a zealous position as proprietors of the temple in the first place. God was speaking to those who listened, seeking to learn (disciples-to-be) saying, “You insult me by not having done this clearing before my Son came for me.”

When that quote is seen as coming from the lips of Jesus, the rest of the words spoken become understandable, because verse 17 begins with the capitalized word “Apekrithēsan,” which means “Answered, Replied,” or “Took up the conversation.” Rather than the nebulosity of some Jews hearing some disciple quote a half-verse from a Psalm of David, so the NRSV translated this simply as “The Jews then said to him,” one must see the “Jews” [the capitalized word “Ioudaioi”] as the temple leaders – the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, et al – as hearing Jesus quote David, hearing him calling them an insult to God. That becomes why they responded to what he quoted, taking up the conversation that follows.

Verse 18 then has the leaders of the temple ask Jesus (according to the NRSV translation], “What sign can you show us for doing this?”

The Greek actually states this as a two-part question, with a comma in the middle. The “Reply” made to God speaking through Jesus was to ask, importantly, “What sign can you teach us?” where the capitalization of “Ti” becomes the “Jews” responding to God as if their being leaders of the temple made them all-knowing of Scripture, thus able to detect an insult made to them through the use of Scripture. The first half of their question was intended to belittle Jesus, just as God (through Jesus) had belittled them.

More than a sign expected from God, the temple leaders were asking Jesus for some signed document that someone had given to him, allowing him to let animals free, dump coins in dung, overturn tables and tell dove salesmen to go back to where they used to set up shop, outside the temple. Then, the second part of the question asked, “how can you do these things [without some official authority]?”

This two-part question is then “Answered” by Jesus, where the capitalized word in Greek is written: “Apekrithē.” Here, the importance of capitalization says God continued to speak through His Son. At this point in time, Jesus had just begun his official ministry as a rabbi of Yahweh, so Jesus was not thinking how to respond to a question that asked him to produce some form of evidence that he had authority to do what he was doing, at such a money-making time as Passover. To fully understand how Jesus did in fact continue the conversation, one has to look closely at what John wrote.

Again, a capitalized word begins what is said to the Jews, through Jesus. That word is “Lysate,” which translates as the second-person plural aorist active imperative of the verb “luó.” The second person says Jesus was directly responding to the Jews, as “you” in a direct, personal distinction. This second person usage says the “Jews” [plural] were indeed the ones responsible for what happened in and around the temple proper. The root verb means, “loose, untie, release, set free, set aside, allow,” but the imperative mood makes the capitalization be a command from God that knows the rulers of the Jews had “broken, destroyed, and annulled” all connections between that building they worshiped and the God they thought still lived there. Thus, the “sign” Jesus had for them was their own lackadaisical attitude towards being true priests to Yahweh. The sign was their acts that would “Destroy” the temple was everything they did, holding profits [from vendors paying for space to sell their products in the temple] as a value above God. The destruction would come from being self-serving, not God fearing.

Just as the Jews had asked Jesus a two part question, the answer given to them also comes in two parts. The first was the “sign,” which was a great Temple in Jerusalem that would again come tumbling down, due to mismanagement of the Covenant that married God to their souls. The Jews were little more than cheating floozies at that point in time, bound to die as all mortals do, with no chance of redemption. Therefore, they had no way to prevent an foreseeable end. The first part of Jesus’ answer was a prophecy of 70 A.D.

The second half of the answer given by Jesus begins with the word “kai,” and importantly states: “in three days I will raise up same.” While this gave the Jews the impression that Jesus said he would rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem in three days, his response was to “how Jesus could act as he was acting,” as if he had some document allowing him to cast out people and animals. Here, his answer speaks more than figuratively [as John would explain in verse 21], but esoterically as well.

The Greek words written by John, attesting to what God said through the mouth of Jesus, are “kai en trisin hēmerais egerō auton.” Before stating the literal translation possibilities comes from those five words [following “kai”], it is worthwhile explaining how divine texts are not normal sentences, as is prose that follows the rules of syntax presented in human language.

While the words written do form syntactical segments of words that are understandable in known languages, divine language does not require adjustments from one human language to another, such that subject-verb placements make more sense one way in this language, but reversed in another language. Divinely inspired words stay in the order they are written, meaning each word expresses fully one thought from the Godhead, which needs to be received by the brain possessing the Christ Mind.

By accepting that analysis of divine language, it is easy to see how human languages need to process “trisin hēmerais” as an all-important statement about time, as “three days,” and nothing else works. The word “en” is heard as nothing more than a filler preposition. The word “auton” became a common pronoun referring to the noun “temple.” That is how the Jews heard those words spoken, and they were thinking with highly educated brains, as the rulers of the Jews. They heard with human ears, unable to grasp divine language, in the same way the NRSV [and all other version translating divine text into English] makes similar mistakes.

The esoteric way to read the second part of Jesus’ answer, relative to “how comes it that” [meaning of “hoti” according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon], the answer needs to be read as five separate statements, as follows:

· “among” [viable translation for “en”] – means how is Jesus being more than alone.

· “three” [translation of “trisin”] – means how Jesus is a reflection of the Trinity.

· “the light of days” [viable interpretation of “hēmerais”] – means how Jesus is the light that

never goes out.

· “I will awaken” [viable translation of “egerō”] – means how Jesus will revive all those born of

mortal death that have been kept in figurative sleep by the rulers of Jerusalem.

· “the same” [viable translation of “auton”] – means how Jesus will become the temple where

seeking Jews will come to pray and worship God.

This esoteric view of Jesus speaking the divine language sent to him by the Father says [as John would refer to in verse 21] says his answer to the Jews about how he could cast out vendors and have his way on their turf says he will replace the temple the Jews have destroyed by allowing animals to defecate on grounds set aside as holy by becoming himself holy ground. The use of “three days,” where that becomes a prophecy of the three days Jesus’ body would be dead from crucifixion, brought about by the rulers of the Temple, the number “three” still has to be seen as Jesus being joined with the Father, via the Holy Spirit, even when his body [the Son] appeared lifeless and was indeed dead. The use of “days” still says that the soul of Jesus, as the Trinity, never experienced death, having the “days” of eternal life always with him.

Verse 20 then has the Jews retort to Jesus, making their misunderstanding what Jesus said become an example of how they did not truly know the meaning of what David said in Psalm 69. By rhetorically asking (NRSV), “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” the Jews stated where their hearts truly were. That makes knowing the history of the Second Temple important.

The Second Temple was a project allowed by Cyrus the Great, after defeating the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Reconstruction was begun when the Persians took control of Jerusalem, with the Jews returning there from exile in Babylon in 538 B.C. The Second Temple was completed under Darius in 515 B.C., meaning the building of the Second Temple lasted seventy-one years. By the time Herod the Great became a Roman dictator over Judea, the Second Temple had stood for nearly five hundred years, meaning Herod began a renewal of its conditions having come from age. Because it was also a beautification project, it took on the name Herod’s Temple.

This history, which undoubtedly took many freed Jews doing the labor of building a temple says no one in his right mind would say he would take a destroyed building of very large stones and timbers and rebuild that structure alone, much less do that physical work in three days. For the Jewish leaders to think only in terms of the beautification rework and how much more money the new works had brought into their coffers over forty-six years, to even think Jesus had just told them that says they were counting up how much money they would have lost, simply from losing that cash cow for three days. They did not ask what Jesus meant, as if they had misheard the intent of his words, because they thought his answer explained why he used the word “zeal” from David’s song of lament. They could not see themselves as the cause of Judaism’s destruction, through being teachers of spiritual matters, but with no connection whatsoever to God.

In verses 21 and 22, where John explained that Jesus was not speaking in physical terms about a temple, the NRSV translation needs more tweaking to fully grasp what was written by John. That translation says, “But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After 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.” The Greek written is as follows:

21Ekeinos de elegen peri tou naou tou sōmatos autou .

22 hote oun ēgerthē ek nekrōn ,

emnēsthēsan hoi mathētai autou hoti touto elegen ,

kai episteusan tē graphē kai tō logo hon eipen ho Iēsous .

This begins with the capitalized word “Ekeinos,” which importantly states “The one there.” More than a simple, lower-case translation as “he,” referring to Jesus of Nazareth - the mortal man talking with the leaders of the temple - this capitalization acts as an important statement that God was “The one there” doing all the talking that came from the lips of Jesus. Without understanding that important clue, obviously stated in divine language, one thinks the body of Jesus is the only temple in the flesh that can ever be; and, that is not the case.

To think that limits the power of God. While it can state that Jesus’ flesh was a temple unto the Lord, it becomes Jesus-worship to think he is the only temple God can ever live in. The Jews made the same mistake, when David first had the idea to build a cedar house for the Ark, on which God could live. God told Nathan to let David know God does not need a physical building that cannot move freely. That meant the temple unto God was David; and, just as Jesus was another temple unto God, so too were twelve of Jesus’ Apostles and many, many others who were reborn in the name of Jesus Christ. God cannot be limited as to who He can enter and set up divine residence.

When that is understood, verse 21 says, “God then was speaking concerning the temple of the body for God.” Those words came out of John, who wrote as a temple unto God, as a Saint in the name of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus was a body of flesh that spoke the words of God, so too was John and all other true Christians. This makes Jesus the model by which all who are married to God will become.

This then has verse 22 state first: “at which time then Jesus Christ [the Son of God] has been raised up out from dead,” this is no longer limited to the coming death of Jesus of Nazareth on a crucifix, three years later. Instead, it says that everyone who ceases being of death [a mortal with a soul imprisoned in flesh bound to die], through self-sacrifice [marriage to God, as a soul merged with His Holy Spirit], then God will live in one’s heart, making one become a temple unto God. One becomes raised up as a soul awake with eternal life, having been resurrected as Jesus, with his Christ Mind once more leading a body of flesh. Jesus becomes the ruler of the Christians, the King of a spiritual realm that is one’s soul.

The second part of verse 22 then follows by stating: “called to mind those learners of him [Jesus as the Son of man] that this [transfiguration] God has commanded.” This says the disciples transforming into Apostles makes them all be like Jesus, where they are “called to mind” through the brain stepping aside and allowing the Mind of Crist take control over their flesh. This is what Jesus would tell his disciples, some of who began to follow Jesus after encountering him that first Passover of his ministry.

Finally, verse 22 includes two use of “kai,” which forces one to take notice of the importance written in this third part. It says (importantly), “they were entrusted with the truth of meaning found in Scripture.” That means they no longer needed some rabbi to tell them the meaning of the sacred texts, because they began to understand divine language and speak it also.

Then verse 22 ends by saying (importantly), “this [ability to understand] divine utterance that had spoken Jesus,” which was they later understood the meaning of what Jesus spoke that day to the Jews of the temple. This means they also would have a God-given ability to have total recall, not only of experiences in their lives, but the whole history as written in sacred texts. Just as Jesus had that ability, as a human extension of God, so too did the Apostles as human extensions of God, reborn in the name of His Son.

As a reading selected for the season of Lent, when self-sacrifice is a call to be tested in one’s commitment to God, the lesson must be seen as a question that asks: Are you a bridesmaid with plenty of oil in your lamp [Jesus and Apostles]?; or, Are you an empty lamp pretending to be a bridesmaid to God [a leader of the Jews, a destroyed temple to God]?”

On a Sunday where the Ten Commandments have to be seen as the marriage vows between a soul and God, the first agreement is to wear God’s face only, taking on His holy name. Jesus was married to God and when he went into ministry his face did not rise to speak to anyone. The face Jesus wore in the temple was the face of God, so God spoke through his lips. The Jews who ruled over those who knew nothing, kept them ignorant, therefore beholding to their interpretations of Law, none of which instructed the commoners to have their souls marry God.

For modern Christians, the same scenario needs to be seen. People calling themselves Christians are just as lost as were those people calling themselves Jews. Because they were told they were God’s chosen people, with nothing more to do than be born and breathe air; so too are Christians told all they have to do to be God’s chosen people is believe in Jesus as the Christ, with little else required, all else being optional, due to weekly forgiveness at church. The rulers of the Jews are in essence the same as the leaders of the denominations of Christianity, whenever a Christian leader teaches from a position of ignorance, not having his or her soul married to God, thus being able to understand Scripture as did Jesus in this story.

A test in the wilderness cannot end successfully if one wanders out alone, having only his or her brain to will-power them through forty days of some form of external denial. Lent can only be successful when one’s soul is married to God. Only then can one release all thought of the lusts for things in the world and become in the name of Jesus Christ, able to become the temple of the Lord.