Jesus Cleanses the Temple

45Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. 46“It is written,” he said to them,” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” 47Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words (Luke 19:45-48).

It was confrontation time! One person, Jesus, stood against the High priest who was overseeing a corrupt system. The Court of the Gentiles in the Temple had been taken over by money changers and merchants hired by Annas, Caiaphas’ father in law, who had also been High Priest. When birds or animals were brought to the Temple to be sacrificed, they would often be refused for no apparent reason other than the fact that Annas wanted more money. A worshipper that bought an animal inside the Temple precincts would be charged fifteen times more than one bought outside the Temple, but if a person bought it outside the temple, although it was much cheaper, the priests who inspected the animals, would often refuse it, thus forcing the worshipper to buy another animal inside the temple.

Annas presided over everything that was going on and was responsible for this system of purchase and trade, which exploited the poor. The Temple tax also had to be paid in Israelite Shekels. Visitors from different nations would be short changed and robbed, but there was nothing they could do against it, such were the corrupt practices that went on in the temple courts. Instead of a place where the Gentiles could pray and seek God, they smelled animal dung and the clink of coins. It would have saddened any true worshipper who understood how people were being treated in the Name of God. Mark records how Jesus responded to such behavior in the House of God:

15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts (Mark 11:15-16).

The Lord’s passion for His Father’s Name and glory burst forth in controlled anger. Later, the Apostle John writes: His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). His courage and zeal captured their hearts. How they adored Him for what He did that day. He was outraged at the religious leader’s insolence and greed. Just picture the scene: the money rolling everywhere, people scrambling for all they can grab as tables are overturned, doves flying in all directions, getting their freedom instead of being used for dishonest profit. The picture is one of bedlam inside the Court of the Gentiles. God had spoken that His house would be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7), but instead they were selling animals and birds.

Can you imagine the leading Jews being challenged by someone whom they believed was an illegitimate son from Nazareth? Their thoughts turned towards violence toward the One who challenged their practices (v.47). Where did He get the authority to do and say such things? They may have thought: “How can He assume to tell us we cannot sell our goods in the Temple precincts?” Surely, Jesus must have known that this behavior would not earn Him any friends or favors in the Temple Courts. His brave actions exemplified His passion and fervor for His Father’s house. May this same attitude be in us too, a passion for the household of faith.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas

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