Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. (verses 18-23)
The Clearing of the Temple is an iconic moment in the ministry of Jesus. He overturns money-changers’ tables, drives out cattle and sheep, and sends doves flying (and their owners packing). Each of the other Gospels report that such a clearing took place just prior to the cross. But John tells us here of an event much earlier, right near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Apparently the purity of the Temple was an abiding passion for him and he enacted this scene of judgement more than once.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The text makes clear that the religious leaders are not willing to accept the compelling authority of Jesus’ action. They balk at any suggestion that they embrace change. No wonder Jesus needs to repeat his powerful critique.
There is so much irony here. The religious leaders indignantly demand that Jesus verify his authority through miraculous signs. The implication is that they will not believe without them, and will be compelled to believe if they actually occur. But meanwhile, it turns out Jesus has been working miracle after miracle in and around this same time, for “many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name” (verse 23). What more do the religious leaders want? It seems they simply want to be left alone.
Of course the larger miracle looming over this entire scene is the Resurrection itself. With hindsight, John reads this into the text right here, having become fully aware that Jesus had his sights on this end-point all the way through. When he speaks of destroying “this temple”, he knows the cross is coming. When he promises to “raise it again in three days”, he’s anticipating his decisive triumph over death.
The irony is that those who have been offended by the clearing of the Temple will be offended, also, by resurrection. When Jesus gives a preview in the raising of Lazarus, the Sanhedrin is called into session and conspires to put Jesus to death (John 11:46-53). And when he himself leaves the tomb empty behind him, the ongoing story of the book of Acts makes clear that belief wasn’t the guaranteed outcome of this miraculous sign.
But, in stark contrast, the disciples did believe. After he was raised from the dead, they “believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken” (verse 22).
We have the opportunity, too. Not expressing unbelief by pressing for an additional sign. Not making demands that he perform as we see fit. Rather, taking the witness of the Scriptures, and opening our eyes fully to all he is currently doing, we choose to believe in his name. We trust in his power. We submit to his authority and embrace him as Lord.
Lord Jesus, I bow to your authority. I submit to the Scriptures. I believe your words. I honour you, for you have overcome death. I choose to follow, for you are Lord.
Reflect: Is there any area of life in which you are tempted to question his authority? Confess it. Embrace his word. Honour him as Lord.