In this section of John, we see three things happen. Jesus “cleanses” the temple. Jesus equates himself, his body, with the temple. And, Jesus does not acknowledge insufficient belief.
This passage is a damning one for much of Christendom. In the overarching section including all of chapters two through four, Jesus is revealing the new order of things—the breaking through of the Kingdom of God into the world. Here He targets what will turn out to be his biggest enemy, the religious order.
Religion has always represented humanity’s failed attempts to save ourselves from our rebellion against God. Judaism, even though it is based on God’s revelation and the Law He gave to instruct us of our helplessness is not immune from this institutional, cultural, systematic attempt of people to save themselves. And the sad thing is that Christianity, when it has developed and deviated from what Jesus established is not immune either.
We no longer meet in a single building representing God’s home on earth. We don’t even need buildings to assemble as followers of Jesus. Yet even simple expressions of church can forget their purpose and become empty, self-focused, religious clubs. Jesus called on the people of His day to recognize the loss of meaning that the religious symbols had suffered. But He also called on people to place their trust in Him, not the building or the system they were relying on.
And worst of all, we see here in John that many people “believed in His name” and it meant nothing. We need to be sure that we follow Jesus in a vital faith—trusting and obeying Him as the Lord of our lives—and don’t simply teach people to acknowledge a statement of fact.