And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.
¶Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?
¶Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
¶Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?
¶But He spake of the Temple of His body.
As the disciples watched Jesus driving the merchants and moneychangers out of the Temple, they were reminded of the passage from scripture, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up”(Ps. 69:9).
Jesus was filled with a zeal for the purity of the Temple. His first miracle was one of conversion. This next event was an act of cleansing. That is the way He always works: first, conversion. Second, cleansing or purification.
The merchants had set up their business in the outer courts, which was the only place Gentiles were allowed to pray in the Temple. They, then, were left with nothing but the corruption of the animals and the greed of the merchants and money changers.
Typically, then, the Jews asked Jesus, “What are you telling us with this behavior? What sign are you giving us?”
What they were really asking for was some kind of proof that He had the authority to cleanse the Temple. They weren’t too pleased with Him. Whoever did such an act was claiming, by that act, to have the right or the authority to do so. They wanted to see His ID card.
Instead, Jesus may have pointed to Himself—we don’t know that, but I think it’s a good guess—and used the Temple as an object lesson. “Destroy this Temple, and I will raise it up in three days!” That was His sign, His authority. He could not be destroyed, not even by death.
The Jews got all up on their dignity. “What? It took 46 years to finish the building of the Temple, and You’re going to rebuild it in three days? Oh, brother!” And they shook their heads as they cleaned up the mess, and I’m pretty sure they set it all back up after Jesus and the disciples went on their way. There is an account of a second cleansing in the other three gospels (Matthew 21:12–17, Mark 11:15–19, and Luke 19:45–48).
“Guy must be nuts,” they probably said among themselves.
But Jesus had spoken not of the building of the temple, but of His own body which would be destroyed by death, but not forever. He would rise again in only three days.
The Jews had been given a clear sign, but their eyes and ears were stopped by greed, and they didn’t get it. They didn’t understand that the Temple Jesus spoke of was His own body, or that the Body of Christ was a reference to all believers who worshiped Him in Spirit and in Truth.