December 4, 2020

Holy Week Thoughts: Another Look – Jesus and the Temple

Christ Cleansing the Temple, Mei

Christ Cleansing the Temple, Mei

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”;
but you are making it a den of robbers.’

The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, they became angry and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,

“Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself”?’

– Matthew 21:12-16, NRSV

* * *

Much that happened during Passion Week took place in and around the Temple. In fact, according to N.T. Wright, the events of that week might be summarized by the question, “The Temple or Jesus?”

In the following video clip, Wright explains how Jesus’ ministry was designed to counteract “Temple” theology and how he pointed to himself as the One who would supersede the “signpost” of the Temple and bring to pass the reality to which it pointed.


  1. Steve Newell says

    What’s is today’s temples that Jesus would have to clean out? Do we focus on the building and not the body of Christ? Does our worship focus on Christ or ourselves in the readings and music? Are the sermons pointing us to Christ? Do we focus on the pastor in front or the Shepard of our souls?

    • I agree with you, Steve. I’m constantly asking myself and the adult Sunday school class I lead, “What are the things we’re doing here in church that would upset Jesus?” or “Is there anything we’re beginning to do that Jesus would, over time, become upset about?”

      In Christ Alone should be the focus of all our worship and service.

  2. Anything…besides the Living God in Christ Jesus and His gospel for the forgiveness of sins…can be, and so often becomes a ‘temple’.

  3. It just occurred to me that Jesus IS the Temple. So N.T. Wright’s good question “The Temple or Jesus?” is best answered, “The point is moot, because Jesus IS the temple.” All the Judaic aspects (temple, priest, sacrifice) were/are fulfilled BY Jesus. He is Temple. He is High Priest. He is Sacrifice. He is everything that God asked man to do to attempt to get clean, but couldn’t accomplish under the old covenant.

    • Yes, but also, having embodied the temple as himself, after ripping the veil of the holy of holies, after completing his job, Jesus went back to the Godhead. But before he left, he told us he would continue among us as Spirit (unembodied), and would liveninside each of us. We ourselves have become the embodied temples. Temples are where we are.

      Thus at church functions, there are as many temples gathered as there are believers. And where two or three are gathered, there is God among as well as within.

  4. As Rev. Wright put it, the Temple was a signpost, or a way station which pointed to the Final Solution to the sin problem, Jesus Himself. And because of their familiarity with, and love of, the whole sacrificial system, the first century Jews had a hard time accepting that it was only a temporary representation of the eternal. They ultimately began to hang accouterments and filigrees on this system, like a Christmas tree, and began to treat it as a cash cow. Passover week had become the “Black Friday” of the religious system.

    So when we cheer that Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and then ask ourselves “What are the temples in our churches today?” we display an unwitting ignorance of our true problem,

    What we Christians are guilty of is actually WORSE than what the first century Jews did, for we actually HAVE Jesus NOW and we are turning AWAY from him in order to rebuild the temple and set up those tables in the courts.

    It is easier for us to busy ourselves with the external representations rather than “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith”. We tell ourselves that these temples, these sacrifices, these tithes and offerings are for His glory, but they are really an avoidance system for true worship, “offering our bodies as a living sacrifice holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

    Attending my father-in-law’s memorial service yesterday, and recently leaning that my mother is suffering from Alzheimer disease, has put me in a reflective mood. But God is good because this is making my heart fallow ground for observing this Holy Week. Jesus didn’t “pass away” (that is a Christian Science term), He DIED, brutally and mercilessly, and His passion should be observed and respected in anticipation of His resurrection and our redemption.

    Easter is not a one day event where we sing “Up From The Grave” and then hoot and holler that “He’s Alive!”. It is MUCH more, and this year I am going to observe it.

  5. DUDE, how have i missed this NT Wright video? I’m reposting this. Thanks.