“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.'” (John 2:13-16)
Why did Jesus start His public ministry so dramatically? Why did He behave so badly? What reason could He have for so acting so rudely?
He performed one simple sign at Cana (which would hardly have brought crowds or garnered attention). Then suddenly, without preamble, Jesus appeared in the temple at the biggest social, economic and religious event of the year and seized control. He had no authority from the Sanhedron to act so. He had no law degree or authority as a priest. He did not slowly ascend to prominence or spend months gathering support. He was not even qualified to be an Aronic priest or to fulfill Levitical duties. He was a poor man from the tribe of Judah, lacking any earthly authority. Yet, He acted to willfully shock the religious establishment proving He did not need their credentials. He picked the busiest day of the year to make a spectacle of Judaism as He saw fit. Why did the God-Man behave in such a way?
Because, Jesus was God and intended to literally fulfill Malachi 3:1-4:
“… And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:1-4)
Suddenly Christ came to His temple. Jesus did not come to bring peace. He came to do business with Second-Temple Judaism. God showed up with His own authority and purified the corrupt temple buildings. He did not come to accommodate wickedness but to purify a people for His name. Decoram and the accomedation of error fled away in the pressence of the God-Man. The Sanhedrin were unable to stand when confronted with such holiness and so they began conspiring to destroy their Messiah.
Not only that, but Jesus also cleansed the temple to foreshadow His atonement. Three years in advance He presented a type of His coming work on the Cross. Only after He satisfied God’s wrath on Calvary would God’s covenant people be purified. When He bore sin in His body on the tree, He purchased a people unto righteousness. Israel had long rejected God, and their priests were defiled. Christ came to create a kingdom of priests for God who could bring offerings of righteousness. How could they bring offerings of rightesouness? How could a man, who is sinful, present an offering of righteousness? Easily if he possesses an alien righteousness. The Old Testament failed to create a righteous people for God possesion, but it did show man’s desperate need for Christ’s righteousness.
Why did Jesus appear in the temple unannounced that Passover day? To fulfill prophesy and thus validate His claims of Divinity and to herald His coming purification of sin once for all.