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. “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.’”
The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 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.
“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?”
And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
Understanding And Applying the Text
John places Jesus’ cleansing of the temple early in Jesus’ ministry. Matthew places it in the final week. (John 2:13-22). Many scholars, claim either John or the Synoptic Gospels changed the timing. This includes both liberal and conservative scholars. They say the writers did so for theological or other reasons. Others believe Jesus drove out money changers on two separate occasions. Either answer is plausible. I lean toward two separate events. Though that is not a hill I am willing to die on.
Let’s try to understand the point Matthew is making. He had a reason for including it. And he has a reason for including it here. So let’s remind ourselves of Matthew’s context. Jesus had arrived in Jerusalem moments before this event. The crowds were yelling and screaming, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” In other words, they acknowledged Jesus as Christ.
This upset the Jewish leaders. They feared the Romans would take note and things would turn horrific. This was a justified fear. In 70 AD the Romans did come to quell an uprising. The Roman slaughter made Hitler look like a humanitarian.
The Jewish leaders’ fears were only intensified. The Romans would hear about the new king. And now this king was starting a riot in the temple. It is easy to understand their concern.
Does Jesus do anything to ease their concerns? No. Jesus doubles down. He walks into the temple. Then He turns over the tables and benches. We would not consider it reverent or respectful.
Jesus justified His actions from the prophets. Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. He said “My house will be called a house of prayer. But you are making it a den of robbers.”
In throwing out the merchants Jesus declared this was His house. He was proclaimed King, a title He accepted. Now He is claiming the office of High Priest.
We need to take a step back and remember this was Jesus. This was His house. All Christians should hold the same zeal that caused such fervor. But this is not something we are to imitate. Christ had authority we do not. We lack Christ’s authority. When the church becomes polluted we should groan. But God brings the remedy.
How did the Jewish leaders justify buying and selling in the Temple? They were providing a valuable service. Let’s take a look at this from another point of view. It was Passover. Thousands of people came to Jerusalem to worship. They needed to provide a sacrifice. They could not bring their sacrifice hundreds of miles. Instead, they bought one when they arrived in Jerusalem. The sacrifice needed to be without blemish. The animals sold in the temple were without blemish.
The people needed money to put into the offering. The offering needed to be pure. A coin with Cesear’s image was an idol. Giving that to God was wrong. The people needed all these things for worship. The merchants provided a valuable service.
We can justify it based on need. We can justify it based on convenience. But when we do, we ignore one small detail. God forbid buying and selling in the Temple. It was a direct violation of God’s law. Commerce was not allowed in the Temple. (Zechariah 14:21) They could provide their service elsewhere. It was not to be in the temple. It is not so minor detail after all.
But how often are we guilty of the same offense? I am not talking about specific buying and selling. I am talking about justifying our violation of God’s command. Obeying the command is too inconvenient for us. We assume the inconvenient command was for another time or another culture.
Two of the most obvious today are homosexuality and the role of women in the church. We make the answer what we want it to be rather than reading and obeying God’s word. I mention those two issues because they are easy illustrations. You can understand the illustration. But there are a host of others we have that are individual and personal. We violate God’s law. But we think we have good reasons for it.
The point of the cleansing is Jesus is asserting this was His house. He had the authority to kick out the money changers and merchants.
Once Jesus had cleansed the Temple, the blind and lame came to Him. And He healed them. This was further evidence Of Jesus being the master of the house or Temple. Again we are not called to such violent action. It is not our house.
Even the children recognized the Messiah. But the chief priests and scribes could not see it. The chief priests and scribes should have seen it. They were the ones who had studied the law and the prophets. They were the ones who know the prophesies. Yet it is the children and the uneducated who saw Jesus was and is the Messiah. This is not the natural order of things. If the chief priest and scribes were more worried about God than Rome they would have.
This should cause us to pause and reflect. Where are we more concerned about the culture and what others think? We could lose our jobs. We could be ostracized. We could lose all our processions. We are so concerned about our status that we ignore the commands of our Lord.
The children’s voices only intensified the chief priests’ and scribes’ anxiety. They did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.
Let’s look at how blinded the chief priests and scribes were. They could not see the truth even when He stood in front of them. Jesus was proving Himself by healing blindness. Jesus was healing the lame as they stood and watched. It was so obvious. Even the children recognized Jesus as Messiah.
Jesus refers them to Psalms 8:2 “From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise?”
After Jesus’ coronation and claiming the Temple, Jesus left to spend the night in Bethany