10 First Temple Cleansing, Nicodemus, and the Woman at the Well

Dr. Doug Bookman

A. The First Cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem

Scripture: John 2:13-22

Notes: According to the biblical record, Jesus cleansed the temple twice: at the first Passover of His public ministry (John 2) and again at the final (fourth) Passover of His ministry (Matthew 21; Mark 11; Luke 19). There is some debate as to whether the cleansing in John is, in fact, distinct from that of the Synoptics (i.e., did John simply relocate the story for his own literary purposes?). I am convinced that there were two cleansings, that neither was random or impulsive, but that the two cleansings were deliberately and marvelously strategic to Jesus’s ministry.

Questions/Observations: The Gospel of John includes four Passovers during Jesus’s public ministry (three explicit – John 2:13; John 6:4; John 12:1, and one implicit – John 5:1). Those four Passovers become the primary means of determining the length of Jesus’s ministry. Here John tells of Jesus’s visit to the temple at the first of those four Passovers.

B. Jesus’s Encounter with Nicodemus, the Seeking Pharisee

Scripture: John 2:23-25

Notes: Notice that the account of Jesus’s interview with Nicodemus is deliberately set off against this brief section (cf. the conjunction “Now” or δὲ with which John 3:1 begins – a slight adversative conjunction).

Scripture: John 3:1-21

Notes: Compare John 7:50-52 and John 19:38-42. Consider the role Nicodemus plays in John’s carefully crafted narrative.

C. Jesus’s Ministry with John the Baptist

Scripture: John 3:22-24

Notes: Notice carefully this little appreciated phase of Jesus’s public ministry.

Scripture: John 3:25-36

Notes: Notice the remarkable and noble selflessness of John the Baptist.

Questions/Observations: How do you understand John’s figure of the “friend of the bridegroom”?

D. Jesus Determines to Depart for Galilee

Scripture: Matthew 4:12; Luke 4:14; and John 4:1-4

Notes: Notice that John’s narrative “re-joins” that of the Synoptics at this point.

E. Jesus Makes His Way to Galilee Through Samaria

Scripture: John 4:5-42; John 4:43-45; Matthew 4:13-17; Mark 1:14; and Luke 4:14

Notes: John 4:5-42 is the narrative of the journey – most notably the witness to the woman at the well in Sychar. John 4:43-45 is the narrative of the arrival in Galilee. Recall that Jesus had earlier taken steps to make Capernaum His base of operations in Galilee.


  1. Notice that Matthew sees in Jesus’s ministry in Galilee the “fulfillment” of a portion of Isaiah.
  2. Notice that Matthew and Mark relate Jesus’s decision to leave Judea for Galilee to the arrest of John the Baptist. How do you understand the relationship between these two?

Adapted from the Life of Christ study notes of Dr. Doug Bookman, professor of New Testament Exposition at Shepherds Theological Seminary (used by permission).