A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 2:11-23, for Sunday, December 18, 2022, with the title: “I Will Raise.” A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: One way you could open this week’s lesson would be to show a picture of this billboard that has appeared across the country with the big headline: “Jesus was a vegetarian.” I’ve seen those on the highway – you might ask your group if any of them they have.
Then talk about how a lot of people probably see that and think, “Ok. Jesus was a vegetarian.” But was He?
The PETA website says: “Many biblical scholars believe that Jesus was a vegetarian. Jesus’ message is one of love and compassion, and there is nothing loving or compassionate about factory farms and slaughterhouses …” etc.
But the solid, Biblical answer to that question is NO! Jesus was NOT a vegetarian.
— Luke 24:42-43 specifically says that after Jesus’ resurrection, “They gave Him a piece of broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.” That’s pretty clear. If you believe the Bible, there is no doubt the answer to the question is NO: Jesus was NOT a vegetarian.
(You could also point out that He celebrated the Passover with His disciples; LAMB was one of the primary elements at those Passover meals!)
So the clear witness of scripture is that Jesus was NOT a vegetarian.
Then you might encourage your group: this morning we are going to look at another passage that shatters many people’s “preconceived ideas” about who Jesus is. But we need to make sure that what we believe about Jesus comes from His WORD, not from just pop culture or our own preconceived notions.
CONTEXT: The introduction to the Book of John in Chapter 1, gave us background material on who the Bible says Jesus is: “fully God/fully Man” who came to die as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” and the call of Jesus’ first disciples. Chapter 2 opens with Jesus turning the water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
THEN Verse 11 brings us to our FOCUS PASSAGE. It says: “This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee …”.
If you want to teach from an outline, I might divide it up like this:
I. The beginning of signs. (:11)
II. The surprising Jesus at the Temple (:13-17)
III. The prophecy of His resurrection (:18-23)
I. This phrase “the beginning of His signs” leads us to consider an important structural element in the Book of John. This whole next part of this Book (John 2-11) is based around SEVEN SIGNS, or miracles that Jesus performed, that attested to Him as the Messiah. You might talk with your class about this, and point out the 7 signs. (If you have the Lifeway teacher’s pack, there is poster in it that has the 7 signs listed. If you don’t have that, here are the 7 signs:
1. 2:1-11 Changing water into wine at Cana “the 1st of the signs”
2. 4:46-54 Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum
3. 5:1-15. Healing the paralytic at Bethesda
4. 6:5-14. Feeding the 5000
5. 6:16-24 Jesus walking on water
6. 9:1-7 Healing the man blind from birth
7. 11:1-45 The raising of Lazarus from the dead
Some scholars divide John into different sections: with Chapter 1 as the Introduction, then call this second section (Chapters 2-11) “The Book of Signs.” Then Chapters 12-20 are about the days of the end, and some see Chap. 21 as the conclusion. But I had read John for many years before I realized that this section was built around the 7 signs — so you might point this out to your group to help them get ahold of the content of the Book.
??? If you wanted to get your class involved at this point, you might ask them to discuss: If you had been there to see it, which of these 7 signs do you think would have been the most powerful to YOU that Jesus was the Messiah?
(Of course the answer just depends on their own personal opinion. To me, I would think perhaps the raising of Lazarus from the dead – but maybe if as His disciple I personally SAW Him walking on that water, that might have been the most powerful. You & your group can share what you think yours might have been.)
??? You could also discuss the role of signs: are they really helpful in getting people to believe?
(Sometimes: some people do believe, and some do not after seeing signs: For example: when Jesus raised Lazarus in John 11, many believed — but others decided to kill Him. When God spoke from heaven in John 12 some believed, but some said it just thundered. So signs can lead a person to Christ, but they do not always. A person’s heart colors even the “signs” they see.)
II. Then :13 talks about Jesus going up to Jerusalem for the cleansing of the Temple. Now, you should be aware that Matthew has Jesus doing this after His triumphal entry in Matthew 21, near the END of His earthly ministry; John has it here early — but :13 doesn’t specifically SAY WHEN it was. So some scholars believe there were TWO different Temple cleansings; others believe there was only one, and that John just doesn’t put it in chronological order here. I think you can believe the Bible and believe either way on that – and it may not come up in your class Sunday, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.
But here in :14-16 we see one of these cases of “The Jesus You Never Knew” or “the unexpected Jesus” or whatever you want to call it — where Jesus does something that some people today would be surprised that He did.
You might read this passage and ask your group: What things did Jesus do here that a person might be surprised about?
— :15 He made a scourge of cords and drove them all out of the temple! Basically a WHIP! Jesus whipping people out the Temple!
— :15 poured out the coins of the moneychangers
— :15 overturned their tables
— :16 telling those selling doves, “take these things away”
— AND :16 where He talks about “My FATHER’S house” — that was very controversial too — He claimed God as His Father!
This was very radical. You might talk about: what would we do if someone did this in our church TODAY?! Honestly, it probably would not be well-received, right? So you can kind of see the other side of this a little.
But, as some of us know, there were some good reasons for this. These people were taking advantage of the folks who had come to worship:
— Everyone had to pay a 1/2 shekel temple tax, but Roman coins, which were in common use, and other currencies, were “not acceptable” for Temple offerings, because they had pictures of Roman emperors and other ungodly images on them. They didn’t want those in the Temple; so they “conveniently” had money changers there to exchange the funds for you — but of course they made an exorbitant profit off of it.
— And it could be difficult and inconvenient to bring an animal to sacrifice all the way, say, from Galilee to Jerusalem. So you could travel without an animal, and buy one when you got there. Well, they kind of “had you,” didn’t they? You had to have a sacrifice, and you didn’t bring one, so they engaged in “price gouging” and took advantage of the people who were coming to worship.
??? Have you ever been to a pro ball game or other event where they had raised concession prices so high it was exorbitant??? (I remember going to a game one time, and they were asking $7 for a 20 cent bottle of water! It was ridiculous. You & your group can share many examples like that …)
Then say: THAT is what was happening at the Temple. And Jesus was furious. Remember, there is such a thing as “righteous anger” — it’s not a sin to be angry about evil; it’s a sin NOT to be angry and Jesus showed righteous anger here.
??? You could discuss: What are some things it would be a sin NOT to be angry about? (Price gouging in the aftermath of a crisis like a hurricane — some of us have seen that; the abuse of a child; and so on.)
Now, as we apply this passage, we need to remember that our churches are not “The Temple” like here in John 2. BUT some of these things could APPLY to our churches.
— some apply this to mean that you should never sell anything in church.
— I personally don’t take it that far; I think there are legitimate things that can be sold; but I also think we need to be very careful about it in light of what Jesus says here. Make sure we’re never taking advantage of people.
There are also many other applications:
— Some business people might be careful about making God’s house a place of business — are you there to worship, or just to build your business relationships? Or politicians: are they there to worship, or to build their political constituency.
The point is, make sure you keep God’s house of worship as a place of WORSHIP, not of business, or politics, or anything else. Let’s make sure His house of worship is indeed a place of worship!
But this whole episode might shatter the “image” some people have of“who they think Jesus is” — usually an image they have made up their mind, of who they WANT Him to be — but it is not scriptural. We need to be committed to get our understanding of Jesus FROM HIS WORD.
??? What are some OTHER passages you/your group can think of, that show us a Jesus that many people might be surprised at?
— John 2:4 “Woman, what does that have to do with us?”
— John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me” — would surprise a lot of people today. They might consider that to be very “narrow minded” and “exclusive.” But it is what He said!
— Matthew 19:4 where Jesus said “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female” — God gave us our gender — that might be surprising to some today!
— Mark 9:42-48, where Jesus talked about Hell. SO many people today think, “Jesus wouldn’t send anybody into hell,” but as you know, Jesus taught more on hell than anyone else in the Bible!
— Revelation 1, where Jesus appears to John and John (who knew Him intimately and leaned on his chest at the Last Supper) fell as dead at His feet! This goes against the “Jesus is my best buddy” kind of attitude that a lot of people have.
There’s more that you/your group can think of. You could probably write a book on “The Jesus You Never Knew” or “The Surprising Jesus” or something like that. But let’s encourage our group members to get our ideas on Jesus from HIS WORD, not from popular culture or our own preferences.
III. Then finally, :18-22 is one of the most important sections of our focus passage: THE PROPHECY OF HIS RESURRECTION
When the Jews saw what Jesus had done, they didn’t like it (of course!) and they challenged Him in :18 “What sign do You show us as Your authority for doing these things?”
And Jesus famously said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Well, as we have seen (and WILL see throughout this book to Chapter 11, Jesus WILL show a series of signs that show who He is. But even when they saw them, they still didn’t believe. When they saw Lazarus raised from the dead, they decided they had to kill Jesus. (It’s so odd; He raised someone from the dead, so “Let’s kill Him!” Instead of believe in Him. But that shows what a sin-hardened heart is capable of.)
But as :21 says, He was speaking of the temple of His BODY, that it would be raised up after 3 days, and :22 says when His disciples remembered this, they believed the Scripture and His word.
This is really a powerful witness to Who Jesus is. Not only did He die on the cross and rise again, He CALLED IT in advance! And there are multiple witnesses to the fact that He called it:
— We have this occasion here in John 2:19
— Matthew 12:40 “Jesus says just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for 3 days & 3 nights, so He would be in the heart of the earth.”
— Matthew 16:21 “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”
— Matthew 17:22-23 “And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.’”
— Mark 8:31 “And he began to teach them that vthe Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
— Mark 10:33-34 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and will hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again.”
So all these times (and more) Jesus prophesied His resurrection after 3 days.
— Matthew 27:62-64 “On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate saying, ‘Sir, we remember, while he was still alive, how that deceiver said, “After three days I will rise.” Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, “He has risen from the dead.” So the last deception will be worse than the first’”
What is significant about this one in Matthew, is that not only did Jesus say it, but that His ENEMIES even said that He said it! It’s one thing for Jesus, or His disciples to say it, but here those who HATED Him even affirmed that, yes, He said He was going to rise from the dead!
So Jesus’ prophecies are a POWERFUL witness that He is indeed God, and our Savior who died for us and rose again.
One activity you might do, would be to have these verses printed out on slips of paper, and give them to different class members to read. As we hear these verses over & over, it just emphasizes in a powerful way how many times Jesus predicted His resurrection on the 3rd day!
But whether you read these, or they read them, then I’d make a couple of important points about this:
1. That Jesus had the power to do it. It’s one thing to make a big claim; it’s another thing to be able back it up.
For example: back in 1993, David Koresh, who led a cult outside off Waco, TX, claimed to be the Messiah. And as many of you remember, they got in trouble and the government raided their compound, and several were killed, including Koresh. But some of his followers said, Don’t worry; David said he is going to rise from the dead! Big words. But the fact is, you can still go visit the grave of David Koresh in Memorial Park Cemetery in Tyler, TX to this day. He did NOT rise from the dead on the 3rd day, and he is NOT the Messiah!
BUT JESUS DID! As Romans 1:4 says Jesus was proved to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead. Of all the “prophets, messiahs, Christs” etc. who have lived and claimed to be the way to God, how do we know which was the real one? God says: I’ll show you, by raising Him from the dead!
Jesus had the power to rise from the dead, so He has the power to give US eternal life!
2) It is one thing for something to happen; it is another thing to CALL IT in advance.
An example you could use is in basketball, or pool; sometimes someone will make an unlikely shot, but they always ask: “Did you CALL it?” In other words, did you say IN ADVANCE that you were going to bounce it off the sidewalk, hit it off the side of the roof, hit the backboard and then bounce in? It’s one thing to accidentally do it; it’s another thing entirely when you have the skill or power to not only do it; but to CALL IT in advance.
Jesus didn’t just rise from the dead on the 3rd day; He had the power to CALL IT in advance; proving that He was who He said He was — and even His most hateful enemies admitted in their own word that He called it! It’s a powerful witness that Jesus really is who He said He is: the Son of God, our Savior.
OK, I hope this will help you some as you prepare this week. If you write something in the Comments below, I’ll be sure to pray for your and your group by name this week.
Per my licensing agreement with Lifeway:
– These weekly lessons are based on content from Explore the Bible Adult Resources. The presentation is my own and has not been reviewed by Lifeway.
– Lifeway resources are available at: goExploretheBible.com and: goexplorethebible.com/adults-training
– If you have questions about Explore the Bible resources you may send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org