The action of cleansing the temple by Jesus shows his fights, on the one hand, against self-serving abuse of the sacred space. But his prophetic gesture and the interpretation he gave to it go much deeper. It points out that the old cult of the stone temple has come to an end. The hour of the new worship in “spirit and truth” has come. The temple of stone must be destroyed, so that the new one, the New Covenant with its new style of worship, can come. Yet at the same time, this means that Jesus himself must endure crucifixion, so that, after his resurrection, he may become the new temple.
Already in his teaching and in his whole ministry, Jesus had inaugurated a non-political messianic kingdom and had begun to detach these two hitherto inseparable realities from one another. But this separation – essential to Jesus’ message – of politics from faith, of God’s people from politics, was ultimately possible only through the Cross. By the total loss of all external power, through the radical stripping away that led to the Cross, could this new world come into being. Only through faith in the Crucified One, in him who was robbed of all worldly power and thereby exalted, does the new community arise, the new manner of God’s dominion in the world.
This means, though, the Cross corresponded to a divine “necessity” and that Caiaphas, in making the decision he did, was ultimately carrying out God’s will, even of this motivation was impure and reflected, not God’s will, but his own purpose.