The point is not to get distracted by these differences but to understand why Jesus is with a whip driving out the sheep and the cattle at the beginning of his ministry.
In short, it is about sending a message regarding who he is. It is a sign that on the Passover, Jesus is going to lay down his life as a sacrifice and take it up again. He is going to die and rise again, and through his body draw all people unto himself (John 12:32).
In doing this in the Temple, Jesus is also confronting what had become an unjust system. In fact, the whole focus of worship in the Temple had been lost. Remember that the Temple is where the people would go to draw near to God, to atone for their sin. It was the place where heaven and earth met. Following the Babylonia Exile, the people rebuilt the Temple and found faithful ways to worship God. The problem was that the Temple had become an end in itself. It was supposed to be a means, but people treated it as the end: people began to worship the building rather than the Builder – God!
Put differently: the Temple was ripe for destruction. The Temple had become more concerned about self-preservation than God’s glorification, and in Jesus’ eyes, this kind of idolatry will always lead to death (which is what will happen, of course, in 70 AD when the Romans burn the Temple to ground).
Maybe this is the wakeup call Jesus is sending early on: as God’s Word in the flesh (John 1:1, John 1:14), as God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16), as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) – Jesus is the One in Whom heaven and earth meet. He is the One in whom God’s Spirit dwells, just as in the Temple. In other words, we can’t simply reduce our worship of God to a place or a building. We worship God in spirit and in truth, and we come to God through Jesus’s own body, by his death and resurrection, which is our Temple (John 4:24).
How may we worship God in spirit and in truth wherever we are? How may we listen to what Jesus is saying about his life?
Pastor Andy Kinsey