“His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” “[John 2:17].
“When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered…” [John 2:22a].
In the Upper Room Jesus says to His disciples, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you,” John 14:26.
I don’t know if John means in 2:17 that the disciples immediately associated Jesus’ actions in the temple with Psalm 69:9, “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.” (The second part of Psalm 69:9 is quoted by Paul in Romans 15:3, “For Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” “).
Perhaps the disciples had an immediate association with Psalm 69, perhaps they didn’t, perhaps they recalled Psalm 69 after the resurrection, or perhaps after Pentecost. We do know that it was after the resurrection that they recalled Jesus’ words, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
A promise associated with the Holy Spirit is that He will bring to remembrance the things that Jesus says to us; of course we do well to have ears to hear what Jesus says in order that the Holy Spirit can bring them to remembrance in due season; we cannot remember what we never heard or read.
There are times when we are like the disciples, we experience things and then afterward the Holy Spirit brings to mind the words of Jesus concerning the things we experience. Sometimes during the experiences of life we hear the words of Jesus, sometimes after experiences we hear the words of Jesus. There are also times when before we have an experience we may hear the Holy Spirit reminding us of Scripture. Such is the ebb and flow of life in the Spirit of Christ; sometimes we hear prospectively, sometimes retrospectively, sometimes in the moment.
I have had times in which I’ve made decisions having forgotten the promises of God and words of Jesus. I’ve gotten caught-up in the moment, in anxiety, in care and concern, and I have not rested in Christ and in not resting in Christ I have forgotten His words. Only afterward, once the damage has been done, have I remembered His words, remembered God’s promises. Those are painful times for me, especially when my forgetfulness of the words of Christ causes harm and pain to others. Yet, it is His mercy that He reminds me of my forgetfulness, forgetfulness born of anxiety, born of not casting all my care upon Him, born of not presenting my requests to God and trusting God’s peace to envelop me and to rule my heart and mind.
The early disciples may not have “gotten it” all the time, even after living with Jesus for a few years, even after being filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, even after suffering for His name time and again – maybe I can take small comfort in that, but it is small. Thank God that sooner or later He breaks through our forgetfulness and distractions and unbelief and causes us to remember and to put the pieces together. Thank God this is a pilgrimage, and a preparation for glorious future.
Note the difference in tense between Psalm 69:9 and John 2:17: “…has consumed me” compared to “…will consume me”. While Jesus’ cleansing the temple manifests His burning passion for the Father’s House, that passion will find its consummation on the altar of the Cross as Jesus becomes the sacrifice and as the sacrifice is consumed by the wrath of God. There is an immediate manifestation of zeal in making a whip of cords and driving out the merchandisers; that zeal will continue unabated and will find its fulfillment on the Cross. As Jesus tells His disciples in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”