After this short visit to Capernaum, Jesus apparently traveled to Jerusalem to observe the Passover festival. Here He found the outer courts of the temple cluttered with merchants who were selling sacrificial animals to pilgrims who had come to the Holy City for the annual Jewish holiday. Other agents were busy exchanging foreign currency for the Jewish coins needed to pay the annual temple tax (John 2:13-25).
Jesus drove these merchants out of the temple courts. “Get these things out of here!” He demanded. “Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!” (verse 16 HCSB). He addressed His rebuke to the temple priests, since the selling of animals was being done with their permission and the money changers were their agents.
The religious officials demanded that Jesus give them some evidence or sign of His authority to interfere with their operation of the temple. He replied, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). These words were not a sign but a prediction. Just as the religious leaders were desecrating the physical temple, so they would eventually destroy His body, but He would rise from the grave after three days.