“And the Jews’passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up (John 2:13-17).”
Jesus’ action has been criticised as overreaction to activities that were at least harmless and at most expedient.
Money-changers provided an important service for worshipers who came from abroad. Those who sold animals made it so much more convenient; worshipers did not have to bring along animals during a time when transportation was nowhere near as efficient and comfortable as today.
So was the Lord being narrow-minded and overly harsh? The text provides us with the answer. The Lord said, “Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”
The money-changers and merchants were mostly motivated by profit. They saw there was a need for such services and exploited the situation to make a quick buck. It mattered not to them that the temple was holy ground; that reverence for God must be top priority.
The chief priests who allowed such travesty were even guiltier than the merchants, for they of all people were responsible for keeping the sanctity of the temple. It was quite possible that they lined their pockets either from rent or kickbacks from the merchants.
Such contempt for the holiness and glory of God provoked the Lord into a display of fierce anger. His behaviour would be constituted today as vandalism and hooliganism, and chances are He would be arrested for disturbance of publicpeace.
On no other occasion do the gospel accounts record such violent behaviour from Jesus. The general impression of Jesus (no doubt furthered by images of a long-haired, effeminate, smiling Jesus) is that of a gentle and meek person, a lover of children, helper of the poor and weak but hardly more.
Yes, our Lord Jesus is gentle and meek. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. But we ought not to forget that He is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). The Lord made a whip of cords and drove out the merchants and their animals. He overturned the money changers’ tables and scattered their money.
This wouldn’t be the first time He had observed such activities going on in the temple. Every year since He was twelve he would have followed Joseph to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. He would have witnessed such goings-on for years but remained silent until now.
Why? Quite likely it was because His time was not yet come. Now that He had begun His public ministry, the time was ripe for Him to declare His arrival and defend the honour of His Father.
The temple of the Lord must be kept holy, free from pollution. Love of money had corrupted the chief priests, merchants and money-changers. Now, the question we ought to ask ourselves is this: how are we keeping our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit?
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Co 6:19-20).
Consider our motives when we assemble on the Lord’s Day. David wrote: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psa 122:1). Do we assemble with gladness to worship the Father, or are we chained to all the worries and affairs of this life, unable and unwilling to let them go?
Do we summon our bodies to the place of assembly but leave our hearts and minds far off, wherever they may wander? One simple thought experiment may reveal more about us than we care to admit.
How do you like it if a loved one keeps getting interrupted by phone calls and text messages during the time you are together? He pays more attention to his phone than to you. His mind is elsewhere but present with you. It seems he prefers to be someplace else, with someone else. He cannot wait for the time with you to be over so he can attend to whatever else he has in mind.
You might be forgiven for thinking that such a person is unworthy of your time and friendship. But then, are you treating your heavenly Father in the same contemptuous way?
Do we carry in our hearts any secret, unrepentant, unconfessed sin? Is there resentment we harbour against someone, or perhaps we have sinned against another but have yet to make restitution? The Lord says:
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Mat 5:23-24).
The Lord Jesus is fiercely jealous of His Father’s honour. So should we be, who are called the children of God. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26).