John: Lesson 3: Jesus’ Early Ministry: The Temple and Nicodemus (John 2:13-3:21)

Jesus Cleanses the Temple (John 2:13-25)


Excursus: One or Two Temple Cleansings?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell of Jesus cleansing the Temple: Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, and Luke 19:45-46.  John’s account, besides being much longer, differs in several ways:


John Other Gospel Accounts
Refers to oxen and sheep Not mentioned
Jesus uses a whip of cords Not mentioned
Word for “money changers”: kermatistas Word for “money changers”: kollubistas
Word for “overturned”: anastrepho Word for “overturned”: katastrepho
Disciples remember Psalm 69:9 Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, followed by Jeremiah 7:11
Response is to challenge Jesus Response is to want to destroy Jesus



Apart from Jesus’ baptism, in John’s first five chapters, the other Gospel accounts do not cover the same material.  With his Gospel being the last written, this makes sense, for he chose to tell us different aspects of Jesus’ life the others Gospels did go over.  Since this section of John also deals with Jesus’ early ministry, the most natural conclusion shows this to be the first of two Temple cleansings.  This is not the one Jesus later does on Palm Sunday, which the other Gospels cover.


Read John 2:13-17

  • What can we understand about Jesus’ view of the Temple when He called it a “house”? In other words, what do people do in a house?


  • Instead of people living out the reality of the Temple being the place where God dwelled among them, what were they doing?


  • How should we view the place where God comes to dwell with us?

Excursus: The Court of the Gentiles and Jesus Cleansing the Temple

John does not say this in his Gospel, but the other Gospels do—God’s House is to be a house of prayer for all (Mark 11:17)!  In God’s house, where He dwelled, where do you suppose the Gentiles were able to worship?  The Court of the Gentiles, on the outer edge of the Temple.  The outer court was close as Gentiles could get to the Holy of Holies in Temple.  Though this did not fully include the Gentiles, this pointed forward to what God would do in His New Covenant.

Read Isaiah 56:3-7

The money changers set up their tables and bought and sold animals for sacrifices in the Court of the Gentiles.  So, when Jesus “cleaned house,” He did more than tidying up or protesting the Jews’ improper reverence for God’s place of worship.  He was also making room, opening God’s house for all peoples—like God meant it to be in His Messiah for all!

In John 2:16, when Jesus says, “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade,” His repetition of “house” shows what He is focusing on.  The Temple (hieron) is now a House (oikos).  For it is not only a place where people gather to worship (Temple), but the place where the God in His Old Covenant has His dwelling (House).

So, the place, not the activity, is the focus.  Here, Jesus is not objecting to their dishonesty (as in His later cleansing, Mark 11:17: “a den of robbers”) but doing business in a place reserved for others: Gentiles.  This belittled the truth of God’s salvation to also include the Gentiles.

God in the person of Jesus enters His House, His Temple, and declares it unclean.  To open salvation for all, as the Fulfillment for the Temple (covered next), He is prepared to receive its shame into Himself.


Read John 2:18-22

  • What did the Jews want to know about why Jesus did what He did?


  • When Jesus said, “Destroy this temple” what was He referring to?


  • Why did Jesus being God’s Temple in the flesh give Him authority to cleanse the Jerusalem Temple?


  • With Jesus being the Temple’s Fulfillment, what then will later be the ultimate Temple cleansing?


Read John 2:23-25

  • Why did Jesus not entrust Himself to the many who believed in His name?


“many believed [pisteuo] … when they saw the signs …. But Jesus … did not entrust [pisteuo] himself to them”: John uses the same word, pisteuo, to connect someone believing in Jesus because of His signs [by sight] instead of by His words.  Such belief is always suspect and is only as strong as the “signs” one experiences.  “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign” (Matthew 16:4).


Jesus Teaches Nicodemus (John 3:1-21)

Read John 3:1-3

  • Nicodemus mentions “signs.” How does Jesus direct Nicodemus away from the signs he was using to recognize Jesus came from God?


Read John 3:4-5



  • How does Nicodemus understand Jesus’ use of anothen?


  • What meaning did Jesus intend?


Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, we find “water” referring to cleansing (9:7, 13:5) or sustaining life by the satisfying someone’s thirst (4:10-14; 6:35; 7:37-38), all of which are connected to divine action.  So also the “Spirit, who is “life-giving” (6:63), who purifies (1:33), and is linked to water (7:37-39).  Here, when Jesus brings in the work of the Spirit, He is emphasizing being “born from above” not “again.”

Read John 3:6-8

  • Into what two halves does Jesus divide the world?


The fallen flesh and the divine Spirit are different realities, each producing offspring like itself.  As with physical birth, we can’t birth ourselves “from above”; this is something done to us.  Jesus, by being born (literally) of flesh and Spirit, can serve as the bridge between humanity and God to bring this into being.

Read John 3:9-13

  • What is Jesus doing with His use of “we” in vs. 11?


  • How does Jesus make clear He is talking about being “born from above”?


  • How does the term “Son of Man” (last week’s Lesson) help us understand vs. 13?


Read John 3:14-17



  • When the Israelites were in the desert and if a snake bit someone, irrespective of age, he could look at the bronze snake on the pole and live (Numbers 21:9). Whom does Jesus save?


  • How does Jesus’ segue into belief (faith), link belief and baptism together?



  • When people quote John 3:16 apart from Jesus’ linkage to water-and-Spirit baptism, how do they separate what Jesus joined together?


  • How do we see Jesus speaking as God from an eternal perspective about those who do not believe in Him (vs. 18)?


Read John 3:18-21

  • How does Jesus link faith and works?


  • How does John condemn the Gnostics (even using their own “lingo”) who believed it was all right to sin, since flesh was evil anyway and could not be redeemed anyway?


  • Though we are doing the doing, as Christians, who is even the source of our good works? (vs. 21)


Link to the next Lesson.