Matthew 21:12-13 (NLT)
12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”
Mark 11:15-19 (NLT)
15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
18 When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
19 That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city.
Luke 19:45-48 (NLT)
45 Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. 46 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
47 After that, he taught daily in the Temple, but the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the other leaders of the people began planning how to kill him. 48 But they could think of nothing, because all the people hung on every word he said.
This is the only account of Jesus showing anger by using physical force. There are other places where Jesus makes some rather blunt comments such as, “Woe to you Pharisees for you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it” Luke 11: 44 (NASB) I can’t say for sure since the Bible doesn’t make Jesus’ motivation for throwing things around clear, but it seems to me that Jesus is totally fed up with what is going on in the temple courtyard. The temple is a place of worship, and Passover is a celebration of God rescuing His people from Egypt. Jesus also knows this Passover is the one right before His own sacrifice on the cross to ‘rescue’ all mankind.
Stop and picture the scene in your mind. The temple courtyard is bustling with people because this is such an important week. The folks selling the animals and doves for sacrifices are really making a lot of money, much more than on the usual week. Perhaps there was even some competition as people shouted about what they were selling? I tend to picture it more like a market in the Mideast or Africa that I’ve seen on TV – the tables, the chairs, the sellers, cages of animals and birds, stuff piled up, and people crowded around. Then Jesus arrives and starts throwing the tables and chairs over, yelling at the sellers to get out. Imagine the confusion. The Jewish religious leaders were not impressed – after all, this is Passover Week, an important tradition. You don’t wreck up important traditions – so they are furious. But then, so is Jesus.
Jesus quotes two different scriptures when He tells the religious leaders why He is doing this. The first quote comes from Isaiah 56: 6 – 7.
“I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the Lord,
who serve him and love his name,
who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest,
and who hold fast to my covenant.
7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem
and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer.
I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices,
because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (NLT)
I find this one interesting since Jesus quotes it a few days before He goes to the cross. Jesus is about to make a relationship with God available to all people no matter what their faith or national background is. And here He quotes a Scripture that tells the Jewish leaders that God has always intended to accept people from other nations. He is really lambasting them because of their narrow mindedness concerning what God is all about. “My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations”. Jesus also states that the purpose of the temple is for prayer. It’s not for making money off the sacrifices that God instituted to help His people see that sin was serious and had consequences.
Here is the second quote Jesus makes: Jeremiah 7: 11 – “Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (NLT)
When I read these verses and think about how they apply to me today, a couple of thoughts come to mind. First of all, the church today is really a “house of prayer”. It is so easy to get caught up in the latest fads and gimmicks to boost church attendance. And I’m not against a lot of what we do today to attract non-church people to our faith communities. But it’s really not about having the largest congregation, or having the most current Christian music, or having the most fun and creative activities. It’s really about approaching God, and knowing Him and what He wants through prayer and listening to Him.
I also think it is a warning about getting too caught up in making money. For the most part, I think churches today and other Christian organizations do raise money for very worthy causes. We should support those groups financially as they show God’s love and care for people both here at home and around the world. Occasionally I’ve heard about an organization raising money and the leaders seem to be living a very lavish lifestyle. Those are the people who I think Jesus would not be pleased with. And maybe I, as an individual, need to look at what I should do with my money. Am I sharing it so others can know God, or am I keeping it all for my own luxuries and easier lifestyle? Just something for me and you to think about.
But Jesus chasing out the sellers from the temple and chastising the religious leaders – that was quite a contrast to the day before when He rode the donkey through Jerusalem and the people were shouting “Hosanna”. I am sooo thankful that God doesn’t give up on us. He knows how fickle we can be; he knows how we can get sidetracked from truth to concentrating on our selves. But all that week, Jesus continued his journey to the cross.
Our song for today is How He Loves by David Crowder Band