12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.”
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
Entering the Temple, Jesus saw the money changers, along with merchants who were selling animals for sacrifice. Pilgrims carried coins from their hometowns, most bearing the images of Roman emperors or Greek gods, which Temple authorities considered idolatrous. Jesus cleansed the temple of the money-changers and sellers of merchandise because of his disgust at what they had made of God’s house of prayer and His zeal to purify it from the abuse of ungodly men. Judea was under the rule of the Romans, and the money in current use was Roman coin. However, the Jewish law required that every man should pay a tribute to the service of the sanctuary of “half a shekel” (Exodus 30:11–16), a Jewish coin. It became, therefore, a matter of convenience to have a place where the Roman coin could be exchanged for the Jewish half shekel. The money-changers provided this convenience but would demand a small sum for the exchange. Because so many thousands of people came up to the great feasts, changing money was a very profitable business and one that resulted in fraud and oppression of the poor.
Jesus was so filled with anger at the desecration of the holy place that he took some cords and wove them into a small whip. He ran about, knocking over the tables of the money changers, spilling coins on the ground. He drove the exchangers out of the area, along with the men selling pigeons and cattle. He also prevented people from using the court as a shortcut.
As he cleansed the Temple of greed and profit, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56:7: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13, ESV)
The disciples and others present were in awe of Jesus’ authority in God’s sacred place. His followers remembered a passage from Psalm 69:9: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17, ESV).
POINTS OF INTEREST FROM THE STORY:
- Jesus drove out the money changers from the Temple on Monday of Passion Week, just three days before the Passover and four days before his crucifixion.
- Bible scholars think this incident happened at Solomon’s Porch, the outermost part on the east side of the Temple. Archaeologists have found a Greek inscription dated to 20 B.C. from the Court of the Gentiles, which warns non-Jews not to go any further into the Temple, on fear of death.
- The high priest received a percentage of the profit from the money changers and merchants, so their removal from the Temple precinct would have caused a financial loss to him. Because pilgrims were unfamiliar with Jerusalem, the Temple merchants sold sacrificial animals at a higher price than elsewhere in the city. The high priest overlooked their dishonesty, as long as he got his share.
- Beside his anger at the money changers’ greed, Jesus hated the noise and commotion in the court, which would have made it impossible for devout Gentiles to pray there.
- About 40 years from the time Jesus cleansed the Temple, the Romans would invade Jerusalem during an uprising and level the building completely. It would never be rebuilt. Today on its location on the Temple Mount stands the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim mosque.
- The Gospels tell us that Jesus Christ was ushering in a new covenant with humanity, in which animal sacrifice would end, replaced by the perfect sacrifice of his life on the cross, atoning for human sin once and for all.
QUESTION FOR REFLECTION:
Jesus cleansed the Temple because sinful activities interfered with worship. Do I need to cleanse my heart of attitudes or actions that are coming between me and God?
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