The identity of Jesus is unique in the Gospel of John as 90% of what is written about Jesus in John’s Gospel is not found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In these three gospels, Jesus’ identity is revealed through the course of his ministry as Jesus is:

  • baptized in the Jordan
  • tempted in the wilderness
  • followed by his disciples
  • seen in God’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration
  • confessed as the Messiah by Peter
  • denied and forsaken by his disciples
  • crucified
  • buried
  • raised from the dead

Ultimately, the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke identify Jesus as God’s Son through his crucifixion as found in:

Mark 15:39

Now when the centurion who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly, this man was God’s Son!”

Matthew 27:54:

Now when the centurion and those with him and those with him who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son.

Luke 23:42

as one of the thieves with whom Jesus was crucified said:
… Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

The Gospel of John is different. Rather than Jesus’ identity as the Son of God being the culmination of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is proclaimed before Jesus even begins his ministry as John the Baptist proclaims in the 34th verse of the first chapter:

I, myself, have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God. (John 1:34)

The Gospel of John is unique in how Jesus is identified. Take, for example, today’s scripture reading from John 2:13-22 where Jesus cleanses the temple of the money changers who were making financial gains through their extorsion of the poor who came to the temple to offer sacrifices.

In John, the story of Jesus cleansing the temple is told at the beginning of his ministry. Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that the cleansing of the temple occurs at the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry after he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday just a few days before his crucifixion (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-16, Luke 19:45-46).

What is the message about Jesus’ identity that John is telling by including the story of Jesus’ cleansing the temple at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry? What message about Jesus’ identity is Matthew, Mark, and Luke telling by including the story of Jesus’ cleansing the temple at the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry?

Perhaps they are sharing the same message about the identity of Jesus and about our identity as disciples of Jesus. Rev. Phillip Martin shares these reflections about the identity of Jesus and our identity as followers of Jesus that is told in Jesus’ cleansing of the temple:

… if we’re listening, we notice that this scene in the temple isn’t just about another message that someone’s trying to get across. It’s not a message about overturning a system of manipulative religion. The message is Jesus, himself. Jesus doesn’t just come, like all the other prophets before him, bearing the message of God’s forgiveness of sin. Jesus becomes the forgiveness of sin, himself. Hence the confusion about the temple’s destruction and rebuilding. He’s not talking about the stone temple. He’s talking about his very body. What we learn from Jesus, you see, is that God’s message is not going to get across until God’s message gets a cross. Because of the presence of human sin, which is the tendency to think we can control where we ultimately fall on God’s big rainbow chart of God’s love, the law, the commandments, the gestures of forgiveness, none of it has been getting across. So in Jesus, the message gets a cross. All of the things that stand in the way of a direct relationship with God, all those systems and rules and guilt and shame die forever on the cross of Jesus.

Pastor Bryan Chapell writes in his recent book Grace at Work about a friend who’s a marathon runner. He was in a race a few years ago that he knew would be tough, particularly at the end. And knowing what happens at the ends of races, how people call out encouragement, he didn’t put his own name on his racing bib but actually wrote the word “Christian.” He knew that when he got to that final mile, and all the people were cheering, they wouldn’t call out his name but would say, “Go get `em, Christian!” “You can do it, Christian!” “Hang in there, Christian!” He ran to represent the name of Christ that he bore.

Maybe the reason all four gospels include the story of Jesus cleansing the temple is to remind us of the identity of Jesus. Maybe they included the story to remind us of our identity as we follow Jesus.

The Identity of Jesus

by Pastor Marc Brown
March 3, 2024

Accompanying Scriptures: John 2:13-22

Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for March 3, 2024

Scripture Lesson  John 2:13-22

The Good News      “The Identity of Jesus”

Music                          “Thou Art Worthy” by Pauline Mills



Closing Music      “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior” arr. Dale Wood

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