On Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem, not on the back of a powerful prancing white stallion, but on the embarrassingly humble and small back of a donkey. He came in to Jerusalem that day just as Zechariah promised almost 550 years earlier (Zechariah 9:9). That evening He returned to Bethany, probably to the home of Lazarus (John 12:1).
The next morning Jesus walked back into Jerusalem, back into the Temple area.
It is Monday of Holy Week.
Three years prior Jesus had opened His public ministry with a scene very similar to this one. (John 2:13–25) The business men of the Temple had encountered the angry Jesus. That day Jesus’ cry was “Stop making my Father’s house a place of business!” Now towards the end of His life He cleansed the Temple for the second time! This time it was recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Why drive out the business men?
Once again the temple is defiled by the “religious business” of the leaders. They had turned the court of the Gentiles into a place where foreign Jews could exchange money and purchase sacrifices. What had begun as a service of convenience for visiting Jews soon turned into a lucrative business. The dealers charged exorbitant prices and no one could compete with them or oppose them.
The exchanging of local currencies for money that could be used to pay the annual Temple tax had become quite a money making operation with the High Priest himself getting a percentage of the profit.
Animals for sacrifice were also sold in the Temple area. Animals used for sacrifices had to be free from any blemish or imperfection. And of course all of the animals sold in the Temple area were “guaranteed” to be acceptable by the priests for sacrifice. The priests of course received a percentage of the profits. Some of the lambs being sold were from the priest’s flocks, raised outside of Bethlehem.
The court of the Gentiles in the temple allowed the Gentiles (non-Jews) an opportunity to enter the temple area and learn from Israel about the true God. They were permitted to go in it but were forbidden to go any further than the outer court. The entire Temple area was considered holy, but it became increasingly more holy as one entered farther in east to west.
The presence of this “religious market” turned many Gentiles who may have been seeking, away from the witness of Israel. The court of the Gentiles was used for mercenary business, not missionary business.
And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” (Matthew 21:13)
By calling the temple My house, Jesus was affirming that He is God.
Jesus is quoting Isaiah 56:7 where God declares that one day gentiles will come and worship with joy and prayer at the temple. Actually it was part of a long sermon that Jeremiah delivered in the gate of the temple, rebuking the people for the same sins that Jesus saw and judged that day.
Jesus called the temple a den of robbers because the place where robbers hide is called a den. The religious leaders, and some of the people, were using the temple and the “Jewish religion” to cover up their sins.
Ironically the only place the gentiles were allowed to pray and worship in Jesus’ day was the outer court where buying and selling had taken over.
One has to wonder how many gentiles seeking after the true God were turned away by the noise, and the greed at the edge of the temple.
What does God want in His house?
• Prayer among His people (1 Tim. 2:1ff).
Real prayer is an evidence of our dependence on God and our faith in His Word.
• People being helped (Matt. 21:14).
The needy should feel welcome and should find the kind of help they need.
• Power in God’s house
The power of God working to bring new life and to change people into the image of His Son!
• Praise is another feature of God’s house (Matt. 21:15–16). Here Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2
Something to think about
- What about us today? If Jesus were walking around our churches what are we doing that would offend Him because it is driving away people who are seeking Him?
- What about you? As a believer your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). What activity is going on in your life that may be keeping others from getting to know Jesus?
Readings for Monday of Holy Week
- Matthew 21:12-16
- Mark 11:15-18
- Luke 19:45-48
- Isaiah 56:1-8
It is my prayer that as we focus on the events leading up to the cross that you can fully grasp the magnitude of sin and its consequences in order to fully understand the light and hope of Sunday morning!
I would love to start a conversation of what God shows you as a result of taking this journey with us this week! You can do that by writing in the comment box!