Cleansing the Temple

Monday – The 11th of Nisan

Jesus returns to the temple courts this morning to finish what he started three years prior. The record of the first cleansing of the temple is found in John 2 and occurred shortly after Jesus’ baptism.

John 2

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?”19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Christ is fulfilling Old Testament Law and setting up a major paradigm shift that will take place in regard to the house of God.


In Leviticus 14, God explains what to do if a “corruption” is found in the house. The corruption is described as “something like the mark of leprosy.” Most likely the passage refers to some type of mold or mildew, but the exact contamination is not important. However, the spiritual uncleaness it represents will be crucial to our story.

Take a look at God’s Law from Leviticus 14. A summary of the passage follows:

33 The Lord further spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying:

34 “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I give you for a possession, and I put a mark of leprosy on a house in the land of your possession, 35 then the one who owns the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, ‘Something like a mark of leprosy has become visible to me in the house.’ 36 The priest shall then command that they empty the house before the priest goes in to look at the mark, so that everything in the house need not become unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to look at the house. 37 So he shall look at the mark, and if the mark on the walls of the house has greenish or reddish depressions and appears deeper than the surface, 38 then the priest shall come out of the house, to the doorway, and quarantine the house for seven days. 39 The priest shall return on the seventh day and make an inspection. If the mark has indeed spread in the walls of the house, 40 then the priest shall order them to tear out the stones with the mark in them and throw them away at an unclean place outside the city. 41 He shall have the house scraped all around inside, and they shall dump the plaster that they scrape off at an unclean place outside the city. 42 Then they shall take other stones and replace those stones, and he shall take other plaster and replaster the house.

43 “If, however, the mark breaks out again in the house after he has torn out the stones and scraped the house, and after it has been replastered, 44 then the priest shall come in and make an inspection. If he sees that the mark has indeed spread in the house, it is a malignant mark in the house; it is unclean. 45 He shall therefore tear down the house, its stones, and its timbers, and all the plaster of the house, and he shall take them outside the city to an unclean place. 46 Moreover, whoever goes into the house during the time that he has quarantined it, becomes unclean until evening. 47 Likewise, whoever lies down in the house shall wash his clothes, and whoever eats in the house shall wash his clothes.

48 “If, on the other hand, the priest comes in and makes an inspection and the mark has not indeed spread in the house after the house has been replastered, then the priest shall pronounce the house clean because the mark has not reappeared. 49 To cleanse the house then, he shall take two birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop, 50 and he shall slaughter the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water. 51 Then he shall take the cedar wood and the hyssop and the scarlet string, with the live bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird as well as in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times.52 He shall thus cleanse the house with the blood of the bird and with the running water, along with the live bird and with the cedar wood and with the hyssop and with the scarlet string. 53 However, he shall let the live bird go free outside the city into the open field. So he shall make atonement for the house, and it will be clean.”


God says the owner of a house is responsible to inspect his house and make sure it is pure. If he sees signs of “corruption”, he must call for the priest to inspect the situation. If “corruption” is evident, the priest will shut the doors of the house for seven days. If the “corruption” has spread when the priest returns, the stones bearing the mark of “corruption” are removed and thrown outside of the city. The old stones are replaced with new, clean stones. If the plague continues to spread in the house, then the whole house must be torn down. If the plague does not spread, then the house is to be pronounced clean by a sacrifice of atonement in which the priest sprinkles the house with blood and running water.

Christ’s appearances at the temple today and in John 2 are in accordance with God’s command. Let’s look at the progression.

I. First, God recognizes his house is unclean. He says to the priests in Malachi 1:6-9:

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the Lord‘s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the Lord of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the Lord of hosts.

II. Then he calls for a priest to come and shut the doors of his house.

Malachi 1:10

10 Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.

III. God’s High Priest comes to inspect the house in John 2. After careful inspection he drives the corruption out.

IV. After seven days the High Priest returns.

The number seven represents either “perfection” or “completion” in the Bible. After the period of time designated by God was complete, the High Priest returns to remove the corrupted stones.

And last night Jesus arrived at the temple to begin his final inspection.

Mark 11:11

And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

This morning he returns and deals with the spreading corruption.

Mark 11:15-19

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

Knowing the corruption will continue, Christ will announce tomorrow that this temple will be torn down.

Matthew 24:1-2

Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

But there is no reason for Israel to fear, for the old temple that was polluted with corruption was only a shadow of the heavenly reality. (Hebrews 10:1)

And a new temple is already here.

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (Literally “tabernacled among us”)

And after the first cleanisng in John 2, Jesus says,

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

From the moment Jesus appeared, the heavenly temple is here in the form of Immanuel “God with us.” New, clean stones are continually being added to this temple as people are being added to the body of Christ.

1 Peter 2:4-5

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:27

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

However, according to Leviticus, atonement must be made for the clean house due to the corruption that was removed from its stones (the members of the body of Christ.) This sacrifice must include running water and the sprinkiling of blood.

…the priest shall pronounce the house clean because the mark has not reappeared. 49 To cleanse the house then, he shall take two birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop, 50 and he shall slaughter the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water. 51 Then he shall take the cedar wood and the hyssop and the scarlet string, with the live bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird as well as in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times. Leviticus 14

This sacrifice of atonement to secure the cleansing of the true temple will take place on Friday at the cross.

John 19:34

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

We are the new, clean temple of God through Christ’s sacrifice of atonement. Now we can approach the throne of grace in the Holy of Holies with confidence. (Hebrews 4:16)

This morning, Jesus shows the people that the old temple of corruption must be torn down and rebuilt new and clean. Then the true temple, the body of Christ, will serve as a house of prayer for all the nations.

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