12. The Cleansing Of The Temple (2:12-17)

After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples. And He remained there not many days. And the Passover of the Jews was near. And Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found those selling oxen and sheep and doves in the temple, and the money changers sitting. And making a whip out of ropes, He threw all out of the temple, both the sheep, and the oxen, and the money changers, pouring out the money and overturning the tables. And to the ones selling the doves, He said, Take these things from here! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, “The zeal of Your house has consumed Me.” (John 2:12-17)

In the highest sense, “temple” signifies the Lord’s Divine Human, and in the relative sense, heaven; and as it signifies heaven, it also signifies the church, for the church is the Lord’s heaven on earth; and as “temple” signifies heaven and the church it also signifies Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, for the reason that this makes heaven and the church; for those who receive Divine truth in soul and heart, that is, in faith and love, are they who constitute heaven and the church. (Apocalypse Explained 220)

By the sellers and buyers are here signified those who make gain for themselves out of holy things; by the tables of the money-changers is signified – from holy truths… (Apocalypse Explained 840)

The zeal of Thy house hath eaten me up (Ps. 69:9); speaking of the Lord; “the zeal of the house of Jehovah” denotes His love toward those who receive good and truth, for these are “the house of Jehovah.” (Arcana Coelestia 8875)

Last time we saw that Jesus’s journey from Cana down to Capernaum spiritually corresponds to a shift from a more internal or higher state to a lower or more external state of thought and affection. It’s important for us to see that these journeys of the Lord in the Word are there to teach us about our own experience in living the spiritual life. This can be more clearly seen when we see that any activity of Jesus in the literal sense of the Word corresponds to the advancing activity of Divine truth within the human mind.

As to places in the Word we saw how these corresponded to settled states of mind that we either dwell in or pass through mentally. Cana as a place corresponds spiritually to a state of transformation, a state of spiritual advancement where we come to see the truths of the Word in a new way. It’s a state in which we move from a natural perception of truth to a spiritual one as seen in the water being changed into wine. So it’s an insight in which we begin to see more clearly how truths from the Word can be applied to the life of our external thought and affection. What happens in this transformation of our understanding of the Word is that we begin to gain a real sense of there being something higher within from which we can view what is lower. We are now beginning to be able to view what is of the natural man from the spiritual man and we find that this new level of insight requires something of us – our response. If the lower lusts of the natural man are to be subdued so that the spiritual man can rule our life then we need to respond so that the power of the Word to save us as, as represented by Jesus in this story, can make its journey from understanding and insight into action, what the Scriptures call repentance.

Capernaum is this state of responsiveness to the Word in the life in our more external level of thought and affection. This is clear from the meaning of the name of Capernaum which means field of repentance and this discipline is something that must be constantly practiced in the spiritual life. All our perceptions, thoughts, and motives are clouded in the loves of self and the world, and it is only through being willing to have truths govern the life of our thoughts and affections, and from there our actions, that our life can begin to undergo a purification and cleansing from its evils and falsities.

It is a spiritual law of Divine Providence that as we look to respond to Divine truths in the external aspects of our life, that the Lord can then look to deal with the evils and falsities that the loves of self and the world have insinuated into our life. And He does this in the more internal as well as the external dimensions. This is explained in the following excerpt from the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity

We know absolutely nothing about the inner state of our minds; yet there are infinite things there, none of which comes to our awareness. The inner working of our thought or our inner self is our actual spirit, and there are infinite elements there, innumerable elements, just as there are in our physical bodies. In fact, there are even more, since our spirit is human as to its form, and there are elements in it to answer to everything in our bodies. (Divine Providence 120-121)

Since our senses tell us nothing about the way our minds or souls are at work, both together and separately, in all the elements of our bodies, we do not know how the Lord is at work there. But His activity is constant. We have no part in it but still the Lord cannot cleanse us from any compulsion to evil in our spirits or inner life if we keep the outer life closed. Each of the evils that we use to keep our external level of thought and feeling life closed seems to be a single item, but there are infinite elements within them. When we dismiss one as a single item, then we shut out and dismiss the Lord’s ability to show us any one of the infinite elements that it contains.

Many people believe that simply believing what the church teaches cleanses us from our evils; some believe that this is achieved by doing good, some that what is needed is knowing, discussing, and teaching about churchly matters; some opt for reading the Word and devotional literature, some for going to church and listening to sermons and especially taking Communion, some for renouncing the world and being resolutely devout, some for confessing themselves guilty of all sins—the list goes on and on. However, none of these activities cleanses us unless we examine ourselves, see our sins, admit them, accept responsibility for them, and repent by not committing them anymore, doing all this apparently on our own but at heart acknowledging that it comes from the Lord. Until this happens, none of the things I just listed helps. They are being done either for credit or hypocritically. (Divine Providence 121)

So we see from this that we have to examine ourselves and attend to what we find in our external man if we want the Lord to attend to the infinite things that lie within each of the evils and falsities there. When we do this, as represented by Capernaum, the field of repentance, then our deliverance from those selfish lusts that have been brought to our attention draws near and it is described in today’s passage as…

And the Passover of the Jews drew near and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 

The Passover is a symbol of deliverance from captivity. It was a feast introduced by the Lord that marked the deliverance of the sons of Israel from the oppression they were suffering at the hands of the Egyptians. This of course represents our deliverance from the tyranny of selfishness by the power of Divine truth. As we respond to the insights that we have received from the Word and have through that responsiveness moved into a state of repentance, so then and only then does our deliverance draw near. By our positive responses to Divine truth, we effectively give the Lord leave to move into those deeper things that give life to our external evils so that they can be dealt with, and the power of their hold on our thoughts and affections broken.

This movement of Divine truth to deal with the deeper aspects within those elements of selfish life is represented by Jesus going up to Jerusalem. For if coming down represents a move towards the more external elements of the mind, then going up is a move towards what is more deeply set. Jerusalem, like Cana and Capernaum represents a state of life and thought within the human mind. Its higher geographical location tells us that it spiritually represents something much more deeply set. Our mental Jerusalem is made up of the core religious values and spiritual beliefs that we hold to, and as such it represents the state of the Church that exists within our mind. So the church is nothing else than the state of belief from which our life or actions proceed. As we live from the truths that we have from the Word, that is, as we engage in the spiritual discipline of repentance in an effort to cease from the specific evils we have had insight into, so the Word is elevated from the more external level of mind represented by Capernaum into a deeper level or state represented by Jerusalem. For once we make an effort to attend to the more external elements of the loves of self and the world, our attention can then be drawn towards those elements that we have previously not been conscious of.

Here we find the temple, the house of God or where the Divine presence should be housed within the human mind. But it’s found to be filled with traders and money changers, with elements of self-love and self-gain that need to be cast out of the mind if it is to truly be a temple for the Word. The purpose for which Divine truths is given is to bring order to our affectional and thought life so that they conform to the Divine laws of love to the Lord and love towards the neighbour. External evils and falsities all have deeper elements to them that are infinite in number. We have no way of grasping the extent of these things and we are taught this so that we might be motivated to deal with what we can see so that the Lord can attend to what we can’t see. These deeper elements are represented here as…

those selling oxen and sheep and doves in the temple, and the money changers sitting. 

These internal elements that are opposed to genuine goods and truths sit within the mind. Divine revelation is given so that we can at least be aware that they are there, whether we are conscious of them or not. For until we are prepared to take external truths from the Word and use them as a mirror for our own life and respond to what we see, the Lord is powerless to act. But if we take hold of the Word and use it to repent from what we know to be unloving and selfish aspects of our life, then something can begin to take place that will see the more interior aspects cleansed.

Those who sell oxen, sheep and doves are those aspects of the proprium that takes the good affections given to man by the Lord and uses them for self-gain or gratification. The money changes are those who change money and as money is representative of truths through with goods can be obtained, those who change it in this context are those elements of our proprium that looks to change truths into what is false to justify the evils of the natural man. The patterns of thought and selfish delights responsible for defiling the human mind must be cast out and this can only be accomplished by means of the Word. So we read that…

And making a whip out of small ropes, He threw all out of the temple, both the sheep, and the oxen, and the money changers, pouring out the money and overturning the tables.

The small ropes are natural truths from the Word that if lived from can cast out the evil affections of self love and overturn the tables of false thinking that seek to pervert the holiness and sanctity of the human mind as the dwelling place for the Lord’s life. This is the use to which the truths of the Word must be put if we are to know the power of the Lord to save us from ourselves. If we would do this, then we will know first-hand the zeal the Lord has for our salvation.

He said, Take these things from here! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, “The zeal of Your house has consumed Me.

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