I Am He

John 4:25-30

“I who speak to you am he.”

As the disciples were approaching the well on return from their errand into town, the Samaritan woman capped off her conversation with Jesus by saying, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Jesus responded, “I who speak to you am he.”

There’s no doubt about what Jesus is claiming here. He is letting her know in no uncertain terms that he is the Messiah. Contrast this with his not-so-direct response earlier, when she asked, “Are you greater than our father, Jacob?” (John 4:12) He didn’t say it then, but the answer had become obvious by now. Yes, he is greater than Jacob. He is the God of Jacob.

Realizing that Jesus would soon be traveling on with his companions, the Samaritan woman lost no time in hastening back to the town to spread the news that Messiah had come.

Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him. (John 4:28-30)

Somehow, during her brief encounter with Christ, faith had taken hold within her heart. Let’s not make the mistake of taking her question (“Could this be the Messiah?”) as a sign that she still harbored any doubt. She did not pose that question in order for others to confirm her belief, but rather as a challenge for them to come and confirm it for themselves. And, apparantly, her argument was persuasive enough to cause a great many of the townspeople to drop whatever it was they were doing at the time and come with her.

This story of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman stands in contrast to his earlier one with Nicodemus. With Nicodemus, he was metaphorical and indirect, but with the Samaritan woman, he was more straightforward and personal. This is because Jesus approached each person who crossed his path as a unique individual; he didn’t rely on any particular method or formula for evangelism, for he could see within their hearts and already knew whether or not they believed in him. By the time he concluded his encounter with the Samaritan woman, he knew she was able to respond in faith to the truth which he spoke boldly and plainly.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17 NASB)

In Spirit and In Truth

John 4:11-26
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The advent of Christ to earth signaled a time of transition within in the Kingdom of God. Things were changing – the crooked paths were being made straight, the roughs ways were being made smooth (Luke 3:5-6), the plan of redemption was unfolding. This is not to say that there were no “true” worshipers before this time, or that the genuineness of the Old Testament saints was being called into question, but rather that a new dimension of truth about God himself was about to be revealed, exemplified in the person and work of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

“God is spirit” – Within the context of their discussion about where God ought to be worshiped, Jesus reminds the Samaritan woman that God is spirit, so he is not confined to any particular place, but rather inhabits all of the heavens and the earth. Solomon, who built the first temple in Jerusalem, understood this fully. Before the work on the temple had even begun, Solomon declared:

“But who is able to build a temple for him, since the heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain him? Who then am I to build a temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices before him?” (2 Chronicles 2:6)

“His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” – In order to be clear about what is meant by the term “worship” as it is used within this passage, let’s see what Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance has to say about the Greek word, “proskuneó,” translated here as “worship”:

4352. proskuneó – From “pros” and a probable derivative of “kuon” (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, i.e. (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore) — worship.

However, let’s not delve too far down into the “dog and master” analogy, for Jesus did not refer to God as the Master but rather as the Father.  To worship God in this sense is to humbly show submission to someone who is inexorably higher and greater than ourselves. To worship the Father in truth, we must not only understand the truth about who and what he is, but also understand the truth about who and what we are in relationship to him.

“For they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” – So many of today’s Christian devotionals and worship songs focus on a God who is “crazy about us”; where we become the object of his adoration, rather than the other way around. But such hubris is antithetical to the very quality that God appears to value most in a person, namely humility:

“Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the Lord. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2)

We serve a high and holy God, whose ways are inscrutable. We cannot know everything about God, but he already knows everything about us. He knows all our weakness, all our foolishness, all our shame, all the ugly things that we don’t even know about ourselves, and the astounding thing is, he loves us anyway!

In his famous psalm of repentance, Psalm 51, David said, “You desire truth in the inward parts.” (Psalm 51:6) I think that there is something deep within the heart of man that instinctively understands this, and yearns for it as well – a desire for this raw connection with the heart of God, where we can stand with upturned faces before our heavenly Father, naked and unashamed, loving him and knowing that we are loved by him. This is only possible through Christ.

You Worship What You Do Not Know

John 4:16-22

“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

The Samaritans lived in what had once been territory of the erstwhile Northern Kingdom of Israel, giving them jurisdiction over some ancient and very sacred landmarks. This helped to form their spiritual identity and fueled their assumption that, as descendants of Jacob, they were included among his beneficiaries in regards to the blessings foretold in the Torah. But they were also a very “mixed” race of people, and the sacred scriptures and religious customs they adhered to were a corruption of the teachings of Moses, mingled with the idolatrous traditions of the heathen nations included among their ancestry. So, although they observed the feasts, such as Passover, and used much of the same terminology as the Jews, they weren’t really worshipping the same God, but rather a “God” adapted to fit their own ideology.

All of this serves as a backdrop to the exchange taking place between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, and helps to explain why she would suddenly challenge him with a topic of religious controversy, just at the point when things were starting to get rather personal.

As outsiders “listening in” on this private conversation, we might assume that she just changed the subject in order to avoid talking about her deeper personal issues. But that wasn’t really the case. It wasn’t an attempt to steer the conversation away from deeper issues, it actually WAS the deeper issue; not her relationships with men, but rather her relationship with God. Who was she worshipping?

“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” – The phrase “believe me” is unique here, this is the only passage in scripture where Jesus uses it, and the fact that he further emphasized the phrase with “woman” lends an explicit significance to the words which follow. He was telling her that a time was coming when she, herself, would indeed worship the Father, his Father, the one and only true God.

“You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know”– Throughout Jewish history, there had always been a remnant of true believers living in the land of Judea. Enduring through the reign of one wicked king after another, persistent despite the oppression of heathen conquerors, we can see them personified in the likes of Simeon (Luke 2:25), Anna (Luke 2:36-37), Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:5-6), as well as Jesus’ own earthly parents. They all knew the God whom they worshiped – not some hybrid, semi-biblical idol concocted from their own traditions, but the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Creator of heaven and earth; the One who was, and is, and is to come.

“For salvation is of the Jews.” – When Jesus said this, he wasn’t speaking to a group of people, he was speaking only to her, so it was said with the intent that she would be able to understand him. As a Samaritan, she wouldn’t be familiar with the messianic prophecies of Isaiah or Jeremiah, but she would be very familiar with the messianic prophecies contained in the books of Moses, especially this one, spoken by Jacob himself:

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his. (Genesis 49:10)

As well as this one, spoken by Baalam:

I see him, but not here and now. I perceive him, but far in the distant future. A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel. It will crush the foreheads of Moab’s people, cracking the skulls of the people of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17)

Jesus was reminding her that the promised Messiah was to come from the lineage of Judah, the people that she now referred to as “the Jews.”

Never Be Thirsty Again

John 4:9-30

“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Lord has long been calling out to those who are spiritually thirsty, inviting them to come and drink freely of the water that only he can provide. We can see this in the Book of Isaiah when he says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (Isaiah 55:1) and also in Jeremiah, where God describes himself as the “Fountain of Living Water” (Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13). So it’s not surprising that Jesus would extend this same invitation to the Samaritan woman at the well, knowing as he did the turmoil of her past and the unanswered questions of her heart.

The woman had been argumentative at first, protesting that Jesus didn’t have anything to draw water with, and why did he think his water was so great anyway? How could it be better than the water in her well, which had once belonged to Jacob himself? But Jesus patiently sidestepped her protests, brushing past the temporal in order to focus on the eternal – “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

She still didn’t get it, however. We can’t hear her tone of voice, but we can still discern the note of flippant skepticism within her response as she says, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” This woman is typical of so many of us who have toiled through life with our heads down, preoccupied with the immediate tasks necessary for daily survival, while inwardly our hearts yearn to worship our creator. We just don’t know how. It takes a supernatural encounter with the Lord to roust us from the stupor of our temporary existence and cause us to shift our gaze to what lies beyond.

“Go, call your husband and come back.” – This is not the hard sell tactic of a timeshare sales presentation (“both spouses required to attend”) this is the sound of Jesus drawing back the bow as he prepares to shoot an arrow straight into the painful recesses of her heart:

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.” (John 4:16-19)

Thunk! The arrow hit the target! We know this because she immediately says, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.” Or maybe it wasn’t so immediate. Maybe she took a moment of silent reflection before speaking again. In either case, it’s clear that she’s been jolted away from her mundane task of fetching water, for she begins to question him about spiritual things. As Jesus continues to talk with her, faith springs to life within her heart. She forgets her thirst, for she has discovered the Fountain of Living Water. Leaving her water pot behind, she rushes back into town to tell the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did; isn’t this the Christ?!”

Give Me A Drink

John 4:1-10

“Will you give me a drink?”

Some time after the Passover feast, Jesus departed from the region of Judea and began travelling through Samaria on his way back to Galilee. As he and his disciples approached the town of Sychor, they passed a well, known as “Jacob’s Well,” which was located on the outskirts of town. Jesus was weary from the uphill journey, so he stopped off to sit by the well and rest while his disciples continued on into town in order to buy food.

As Jesus sat there by the well, a Samaritan woman came by to fill her water jug. Jesus asked if she would give him a drink, but instead she gave him an argument:

“How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:9-10 NASB)

The Jews and the Samaritans had a long history of animosity, going back to the time preceding the Babylonian exile. Like any long-standing blood feud, there were incidents perpetrated by both sides which fomented the conflict and contributed to the deep-seated hostility which already existed between them. As a result, the Samaritans despised the Jews every bit as much as the Jews despised the Samaritans.

“Will you give me a drink?” – Jesus wasn’t just using this as a conversation starter, he was genuinely tired and thirsty from his journey, and he needed a drink of water. Still, his request was an audacious one, for it meant that the woman should allow him to drink from the very same vessel from which she herself drank. (There were no Dixie cups in those days!)

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” – The gift of God that Jesus spoke of is the gift of eternal life. (John 4:14; Romans 6:23) Jesus knew what was in this woman’s heart, and he knew that he was bringing to her the very thing that she had yearned for all her life, though she couldn’t recognize it.

Before proceeding into further study of the ensuing conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, let us pause to reflect upon the attitude that Jesus assumed in his initial approach. Jesus did not approach her from a position of smug superiority, knowing that he held the answer to all her prayers. Instead, he approached her from a position of humility, perhaps even vulnerability, for he was physically weary, thirsty, and alone in hostile territory without the support of his companions.

What does it take to bring the message of hope to a hostile world? Let us learn from the example that Jesus provides in this conversation with the Samaritan woman. We must abandon all notions of moral superiority and allow the Holy Spirit to give us the same mind that was also in Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and took on the form of frail humanity, ultimately allowing himself to be sacrificed on a cross for the sake of all those who would one day believe in him. (Philippians 2:5-8)

The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up

John 3:14-15

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

Jesus is referring here to a peculiar episode which took place during the time when Moses and the Israelites were traveling en route to the promised land. The people had grown impatient, and carelessly slandered both God and Moses, complaining that they’d been rescued out of Egypt in order to die in the wilderness. They complained of having no bread or water, disparaging the very manna which God was miraculously providing to them each morning in order to sustain them. So God sent poisonous snakes out amongst them, and the snakes bit the people, causing many of them to die:

Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. (Numbers 21:6-9)

“So the Son of Man must be lifted up…” – In this simile, Jesus compares himself not to Moses, but to the snake! Although Nicodemus may not have recognized it at the time, Jesus had just revealed to him a “heavenly thing” – indeed, this was the very reason for which Jesus had been sent into the world. That he, the Lamb of God, the one who knew no sin, would become sin for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Following this statement is probably one of the most well-known and oft-quoted portions of the entire Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)

Some Bible translators believe that the above verses are part of Jesus’ response to Nicodemus, however given the abrupt change in style and terminology occurring in this portion of the text, we do not share that opinion. Rather, we believe that the gospel writer himself is pausing here within his narrative in order to expound upon the profound truth that Jesus had just revealed to Nicodemus.

Just like those people who had been bitten by snakes, we stand “condemned already” in our sin. But God, being rich in love and mercy, has sent his own Son in the form of sinful flesh as an offering for our sin. (Romans 8:3-4) If we will but lift our eyes up in faith and look upon the One who was sacrificed for us, we will live.

The One Who Came From Heaven

John 3:9-13

“No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man”

“How can these things be?” Nicodemus asked, still perplexed by Jesus’s assertion that no one could see the kingdom of God unless they were “born again.”  Jesus responded, “You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.”

“You are Israel’s teacher and do you not understand these things?” – This is not an unfair question on the part of Jesus, for the concept of spiritual regeneration could be clearly found within the teachings of the Old Testament, such as in Ezekiel 11:19-20, Ezekiel 36:25-27, and Psalm 51:10. However, Nicodemus’s blindness to these truths was symptomatic of the mindset of the religious teachers of the day. Their focus was man-centered, emphasizing the outward behaviors of “do not eat” and “do not touch.” We can see this man-centered approach clearly in Nicodemus’s previous response to Jesus when he asked him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?” Notice that Nicodemus didn’t say, “How can God…?” but rather, “How can a man…” presuming that the burden of regeneration must rest on human effort.

“I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” – “Earthly things” is not a reference to the natural phenomena of wind and water, but rather to all that takes place within the sphere of earth, including the spiritual interactions between God and men. We who are confined to this earth can have no concept of what heaven is like, for we have never been there. It is another world – a holy atmosphere where we cannot exist without undergoing a dramatic metamorphosis, such as the one described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.

“We speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen…” – One can’t help but notice that, midway through his response, Jesus mysteriously transitions from first person to third person. Who is the “we” that he is referring to? There are actually several theories regarding this. Some believe that Jesus is referring to himself and John the Baptist, or perhaps to himself and his disciples. Others believe that he is referring to himself and all the prophets who have preceded him. Another theory is that he is speaking as a representative of the Holy Trinity. Personally, I believe that Jesus is referring to himself and John the Baptist.

In John 3:31-32 it states, “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.” From the context it is clear that “the one from the earth” is a reference to John the Baptist. Both he and Jesus were testifying about the very same thing, namely the Kingdom of Heaven. However, John was testifying of things he had seen and heard on earth, while Jesus was testifying of what he had seen and heard on earth and in heaven.

Jesus Christ is the only one who has come down to earth from heaven. He is the one who emptied himself of his heavenly glory and took on human form, and who humbled himself to the point of death, even death on a cross; (Philippians 2:6) and he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

You Must Be Born Again

John 3:1-8

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

In the next few posts, we will examine some of the things Jesus said during a private conversation which took place between him and a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was one of the members of the Jewish ruling council, also known as the Sanhedrin. Nicodemus had come to see Jesus at night, presumably so that he could escape observation and keep his meeting with Jesus a secret from the rest of the Sanhedrin. Few would have witnessed this conversation, other than a small handful of disciples (the Twelve had not yet been chosen).

There are some important factors to keep in mind when studying this passage. First, Jesus was not up on a mountaintop preaching to the masses, he was not even speaking to his own disciples; he was having a clandestine conversation with one member of an elite group of learned Jewish scholars. Second, Jesus knew what was in the heart of Nicodemus (John 2:23-25). We might be able to see both sides of the conversation in terms of what was said out loud, but only Jesus knew what Nicodemus was actually thinking, so there remains an unwritten thread to this conversation that we can never be privy to.

Nicodemus opens the conversation by saying, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” He says “we know” indicating that there were others among the Sanhedrin who were also impressed by the miracles they had witnessed, and he confers upon Jesus the title of “Rabbi,” a title of great honor and deference coming from a man of his rank. But Jesus was not flattered by any of this and quickly knocked Nicodemus down from any remaining claim to a position of spiritual authority by declaring to him, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  In one fell swoop, Jesus negated all of Nicodemus’s efforts of intense study and the strict piety that was required to be a member of the Sanhedrin, and declared it to be essentially of no value at all.

Nicodemus, suddenly on the defensive, responded, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered him, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“The wind blows wherever it pleases… so it is with everyone born of the Spirit – Jesus was using a play on words here that becomes lost when translated into English. The word he used for “spirit” was the same as that used for “wind.” Yet, even in English, the essential meaning still comes through – this “second birth” cannot be initiated or achieved by human endeavor, but only by the Spirit of God.

This must have shocked Nicodemus to the core. As a Pharisee, he had spent his life’s work instructing men on all that they must DO in order to please God. But here this “teacher from God” was authoritatively declaring to him that none of a man’s efforts in the flesh could possibly have any bearing upon his entrance into the kingdom of God.

This would be terrible news indeed for anyone who might believe that God is capricious in deciding whom to save and whom to condemn. But that is not the character of God. He is steadfast and unchanging (James 1:17), he is the Lord, “full of compassion and mercy” (Exodus 34:6-7) and he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Destroy This Temple

John 2:18-22

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

This was the week before Passover, and Jesus, in a flurry of zeal, had just purged all of the money changers and livestock merchants from the temple courts. Many of the local Jews were very surprised and upset by this. They wanted to know what gave him the right to come in and shut down these businesses, which several of them relied upon and did not find to be at all offensive. They demanded of him, “What 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.” Their response to him was scornful and dismissive, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple that Jesus had spoken of was his own body, though nobody understood what he was talking about at the time, including his own disciples. Later, after he was raised from the dead, his disciples would recall what he had said and finally understand its true meaning. (John 2:18-22)

I find a striking contrast between Jesus zealously protecting the sanctity of the temple courts at one moment and then cavalierly discussing its destruction in the next. I do realize that he was actually talking about two completely different things – one was a building which bore God’s name (but did not contain his presence) and the other was the body of God incarnate. Still, the juxtaposition of the two concepts highlights the fact that they did have one thing in common. They both bore the name of God and represented his presence on earth. It was not the temple building itself that was sacred, it was the fact that God had once established his dwelling there and it represented his covenant with Israel. But the moment that Jesus died on the cross, the temple and all of the sacrifices and rituals observed there became obsolete.

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” – Here Jesus is clearly foretelling his own death and resurrection, but it is only clear in retrospect – at the time no one understood what he was talking about! It is important to note that he did NOT say that he would build it again, he said that he would raise it. The Greek word, “egeiró,” translated here as “raise” is typically used to describe someone awakening from sleep, or rising up from a prone or seated position.

This statement, coupled with his actions in cleansing the temple, provided the opening salvo in Jesus’s ongoing conflict with the religious establishment in Jerusalem. This seemingly outlandish declaration would continue to reverberate in their minds throughout the next three years, fueling their anger and mistrust. They would remember and ruminate upon these words, misinterpreting them and twisting them in the process. Eventually, they would attempt to use their twisted version of his statement as evidence against him at his trial. (Matthew 26:61; Mark 14:58)  And as he hung on the cross, passersby would hurl these words back at him in ignorant mockery (Matthew 27:40; Mark 15:29) not understanding that the very thing that Jesus had predicted three years prior was actually happening before their very eyes.

My Father’s House

John 2:13-17

“Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

The story of Jesus clearing the money changers out of the temple is well known. It has been the subject of numerous works of art, ranging from classic works to modern memes and, because of its inherent drama, the scene is almost always included in plays or movies about the life of Christ. But many may not realize that Jesus actually did this twice, once at the beginning of his ministry and once at the end. This is probably because the first incident is only recorded in John’s gospel and John makes no mention of the second one, so many people confuse the two separate incidents as having happened at the same time.

After having performed the miracle of turning water into wine in Cana, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Passover. When Jesus entered the temple courts in Jerusalem, he found it filled with people selling livestock (both sheep and cattle!) and others selling doves in cages. There were also moneychangers sitting at tables stacked with coins, busily exchanging foreign money for that which could be used in the temple.

This would not have been an unusual sight for Jesus. The fact that he had lived in a devout Jewish family for his entire life meant that he would have traveled to Jerusalem dozens of times before this.  And these merchants did not just turn up overnight; their businesses had been going on for some time, and provided a convenience for devout pilgrims who had traveled long distances in order to fulfill their religious obligations. It was much easier for them to buy a sacrificial animal on site than to bring one from home, and in order to pay for anything in the temple, they must first have the proper kind of currency, so the moneychangers really came in handy.

But this time was different. This time Jesus took action by fashioning an impromptu whip out of cords, which he then used to drive out the sheep and the cattle and the people who had brought them. He overturned the tables of the money changers, scattering their coins onto the floor. He rebuked the dove sellers, telling them, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

Wow! What a dramatic scene! Nevertheless, the gospel writer is careful not to accentuate the drama in his narrative, and does not provide his readers with any descriptions as to Jesus’s demeanor or emotions. The only clue we are given in regards to these is in an oblique reference to Psalm 69:9, when he writes, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.'” (John 2:17)

Let us go back and read the rest of that verse in context, for it will provide us with some further insight into the life of our Saviour as he stepped away from his former life of quiet obscurity, and set out to fulfill the purpose for which he was sent, even to the point of estrangement from those within his own family.

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. (Psalm 69:8,9)