The First Cleansing
of the Temple
“ ‘Behold, I send My messenger, And he will prepare the
way before Me. And the Lord, whom you
seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,’ Says the Lord
of hosts. ‘But who can endure the day of
His coming? And who can stand when He
appears? For He [is] like a refiner’s
fire And like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of
silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the Lord An
offering in righteousness.’ ”
Reading: John 2:13–24; The Desire of Ages, 154–166.
were two references in last week’s lesson in which we learned that the first
cleansing of the temple in the first advent has its counterpart in the
proclamation of the second angel’s message in the summer of 1844. In this lesson, we will study the work and
purpose of Jesus in cleansing the temple the first time.
1 What changes took place in the Jewish
worship and temple services during the inter-testament period that prepared
them to reject the Savior?
they departed from God, the Jews in a great degree lost sight of the teaching
of the ritual service. That service had
been instituted by Christ Himself. In
every part it was a symbol of Him; and it had been full of vitality and
spiritual beauty. But the Jews lost the
spiritual life from their ceremonies, and clung to the dead forms. They trusted to the sacrifices and ordinances
themselves, instead of resting upon Him to whom they pointed. In order to supply the place of that which
they had lost, the priests and rabbis multiplied requirements of their own; and
the more rigid they grew, the less of the love of God was manifested. They measured their holiness by the multitude
of their ceremonies, while their hearts were filled with pride and hypocrisy.
. . .
the Jews desired the advent of the Messiah, they had no true conception of His
mission. They did not seek redemption
from sin, but deliverance from the Romans.
They looked for the Messiah to come as a conqueror, to break the
oppressor’s power, and exalt Israel
to universal dominion. Thus the way was
prepared for them to reject the Saviour.”
The Desire of
Ages, 29, 30.
2 What two things did Jesus try to do as He
traveled with the people going to Jerusalem for the Passover?
this journey, Jesus joined one of the large companies that were making their
way to the capital. He had not yet
publicly announced His mission, and He mingled unnoticed with the throng. Upon these occasions, the coming of the
Messiah, to which such prominence had been given by the ministry of John, was
often the theme of conversation. The
hope of national greatness was dwelt upon with kindling enthusiasm. Jesus knew that this hope was to be
disappointed, for it was founded on a misinterpretation of the Scriptures. With deep earnestness He explained the
prophecies, and tried to arouse the people to a closer study of God’s word.” The Desire of Ages, 154.
3 What problem did Jesus find in the temple at
the first Passover of His ministry? John
Jesus came into the temple, He took in the whole scene. He saw the unfair transactions. He saw the distress of the poor, who thought
that without shedding of blood there would be no
forgiveness for their sins. He saw the
outer court of His temple converted into a place of unholy traffic. The sacred enclosure had become one vast
exchange.” The Desire of Ages, 157.
money changing gave opportunity for fraud and extortion, and it had grown into
a disgraceful traffic, which was a source of revenue to the priests.
. . .
number of sacrifices were offered at the time of the Passover, and the sales at
the temple were very large. The
consequent confusion indicated a noisy cattle market rather than the sacred temple
of God. There could be heard sharp bargaining
. . . and angry disputation.
So great was the confusion that the worshipers were disturbed, and the
words addressed to the Most High were drowned in the uproar that invaded the
4 Because the temple services were now
perverted and misunderstood, and no link remained to bind the priests and
rulers to God, what work was it necessary for Jesus to do?
saw that something must be done.
Numerous ceremonies were enjoined upon the people without the proper
instruction as to their import. The
worshipers offered their sacrifices without understanding that they were
typical of the only perfect Sacrifice.
And among them, unrecognized and unhonored,
stood the One symbolized by all their service.
He had given directions in regard to the offerings. He understood their symbolic value, and He
saw that they were now perverted and misunderstood. Spiritual worship was fast disappearing. No link bound the priests and rulers to their
God. Christ’s work was to establish an
altogether different worship.” The Desire of Ages, 157.
5 Of what were the church leaders unaware and
with what results?
note: “The Jews were exceedingly proud of
their piety. They rejoiced over their
temple, and regarded a word spoken in its disfavor as blasphemy; they were very
rigorous in the performance of ceremonies connected with it; but the love of
money had overruled their scruples. They
were scarcely aware how far they had wandered from the original purpose of the
service instituted by God Himself.” The Desire of Ages, 155.
6 In cleansing the
temple, what was Jesus announcing?
the cleansing of the temple, Jesus was announcing His mission as the Messiah,
and entering upon His work. That temple,
erected for the abode of the divine Presence, was designed to be an object
lesson for Israel
and for the world. From eternal ages it
was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to
man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator. Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a
temple for God. Darkened and defiled by
evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One. But by the incarnation of the Son of God, the
purpose of Heaven is fulfilled. God
dwells in humanity, and through saving grace the heart of man becomes again His
temple. God designed that the temple at Jerusalem
should be a continual witness to the high destiny open to every soul.” The Desire of Ages, 161.
7 What additional announcement did Jesus make
at this time?
cleansing the temple from the world’s buyers and sellers, Jesus announced His
mission to cleanse the heart from the defilement of sin,—from the earthly desires,
the selfish lusts, the evil habits, that corrupt the soul.” The Desire of Ages, 161.
8 What work does Malachi say Jesus would do
when He would come to the temple at the first Passover? Malachi 3:1–3.
note: “ ‘Know
ye not that ye are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple
of God, him shall God destroy; for
the temple of God
is holy, which temple ye are.’ 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17. No man can of himself cast out the evil throng that have taken possession of the heart. Only Christ can cleanse the soul temple.
. . . ‘He will subdue our
iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.’ 11 Corinthians
6:16; Micah 7:19. His presence will cleanse and sanctify the
soul, so that it may be a holy temple unto the Lord, and ‘an
habitation of God through the Spirit.’
Ephesians 2:21, 22.” The Desire of Ages, 161,
9 How did the Jewish leaders (priests and
rulers) respond to this work of Jesus?
note: “For a time they were convinced that
Christ was a prophet; and many believed Him to be the Messiah. The Holy Spirit flashed into their minds the
utterances of the prophets concerning Christ.
Would they yield to this conviction?
they would not. They knew that Christ’s
sympathy for the poor had been aroused.
They knew that they had been guilty of extortion in their dealings with
the people. Because Christ discerned
their thoughts they hated Him. His
public rebuke was humiliating to their pride, and they were jealous of His
growing influence with the people. They
determined to challenge Him as to the power by which He had driven them forth,
and who gave Him this power.” The Desire of Ages, 162.
10 What two-fold meaning did Jesus have when He
said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”? John 2:19, 20.
note: “In these words His meaning was twofold. He referred not only to the destruction of
the Jewish temple and worship, but to His own death,—the destruction of the
temple of His body. This the Jews were
already plotting. As the priests and
rulers returned to the temple, they had proposed to kill Jesus, and thus rid
themselves of the troubler. Yet when He set before them their purpose,
they did not understand Him. They took
His words as applying only to the temple at Jerusalem, and with indignation
exclaimed, ‘Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear
it up in three days?’ [John 2:20.] Now they felt that Jesus had justified their
unbelief, and they were confirmed in their rejection of Him.” The Desire of Ages, 164.
11 How did the large majority of the people react
to the work of Jesus in cleansing the temple?
crowd that had fled from the temple court after a time slowly drifted
back. They had partially recovered from
the panic that had seized them, but their faces expressed irresolution and
timidity. They looked with amazement on
the works of Jesus, and were convicted that in Him the prophecies concerning
the Messiah were fulfilled. The sin of
the desecration of the temple rested, in a great degree, upon the priests. It was by their arrangement that the court
had been turned into a market place. The
people were comparatively innocent. They
were impressed by the divine authority of Jesus; but with them the influence of
the priests and rulers was paramount.
They regarded Christ’s mission as an innovation, and questioned His
right to interfere with what was permitted by the authorities of the temple. They were offended because the traffic had
been interrupted, and they stifled the convictions of the Holy Spirit.” The Desire of Ages, 163,
12 What was the attitude of the small group of
poor people who remained behind when Jesus cleansed the temple?
poor remained behind; and these were now looking to Jesus, whose countenance
expressed His love and sympathy. With
tears in His eyes, He said to the trembling ones around Him: Fear not; I will
deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me. For this cause
came I into the world.
people pressed into Christ’s presence with urgent, pitiful appeals: Master,
bless me. His ear heard every cry. With pity exceeding that of a tender mother
He bent over the suffering little ones.
All received attention. Everyone
was healed of whatever disease he had.
The dumb opened their lips in praise; the blind beheld the face of their
Restorer. The hearts of the sufferers
were made glad.” The Desire of Ages, 163.
13 How did these people react to the crucifixion
of Jesus three years later?
the crucifixion of Christ, those who had thus been healed did not join with the
rabble throng in crying, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him.’ Their sympathies were with Jesus; for they
had felt His great sympathy and wonderful power. They knew Him to be their Saviour; for He had
given them health of body and soul. They
listened to the preaching of the apostles, and the entrance of God’s word into
their hearts gave them understanding.
They became agents of God’s mercy, and instruments of His
salvation.” The Desire of Ages, 163.
14 Why were a few priests and rulers not opposed
to Christ when He cleansed the temple? John 3:1, 2.
exercise of authority in the cleansing of the temple had roused the determined
hatred of the priests and rulers. They
feared the power of this stranger. Such
boldness on the part of an obscure Galilean was not to be tolerated. They were bent on putting an end to His work.
But not all were agreed in this purpose.
There were some that feared to oppose One who
was so evidently moved upon by the Spirit of God. They remembered how prophets had been slain
for rebuking the sins of the leaders in Israel. They knew that the bondage of the Jews to a
heathen nation was the result of their stubbornness in rejecting reproofs from
God. They feared that in plotting
against Jesus the priests and rulers were following in the steps of their
fathers, and would bring fresh calamities upon the nation. Nicodemus shared these feelings.” The Desire of Ages, 167.