With a view to emphasizing what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, we begin with the conversation which took place after the cleansing of the temple (John 2:18-22).
By cleansing the temple, Jesus provoked an immediate reaction from His critics. They challenged Him, "What right have you to do this?" They said to Him, "If you have this authority from God, show us a miracle to prove it" (John 2:18).
Jesus answered them with a curious statement. They completely misunderstood Him.
He said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19).
The Jews were quick to let Jesus know what they thought of this statement - "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" (John 2:20).
What they didn't realize was this - Jesus was speaking about "the temple of His body" (John 2:21). He wasn't threatening to tear down the Temple of Jerusalem. His words were prophetic. He was speaking of His death and resurrection.
This is made clear in John 2:22 - "When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this; and they believed the Scripture and the Word which Jesus had spoken."
When Jesus cleansed the temple, this was not merely an action of moral outrage. Jesus was preaching the Gospel. He was proclaiming the Good News that salvation would be freely offered to all people through His death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead.
By cleansing the temple, Jesus was saying this: "the repeated, animal, sacrificial offerings of Judaism would would be replaced by the one and once-for-all offering of Himself by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, in death and resurrection" (John Marsh, Saint John, p. 161).
When Jesus cleansed the temple, He was saying that the sacrifices of sheep and oxen would no longer be required since our salvation does not depend on such sacrifices. Rather, it depends on the atoning Sacrifice of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and was raised again so that we might have eternal life through faith in Him.
This is the true and deeper significance of the cleansing of the temple.
The Temple at Jerusalem was concerned with many sacrifices - the sacrifices of sheep and oxen. The Cross of Christ sets before us one Sacrifice - "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"(John 1:29).
This is how we are to understand our worship. We do not worship God by bringing to Him sacrifices of animals. We worship God by accepting the great Sacrifice which Christ has made for us.
- We come humbly before the Cross, and we say, with the Apostle Paul, "God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14).
- We come humbly before the empty tomb, making Paul's prayer our very own: "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection" (Philippians 3:10).