Cleansing the Temple
Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And he found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords. He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And the said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written “Zeal of Your house has eaten Me up.”
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us since you do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus has said.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to find myself by divine appointment in the Sheep Barn at the Minnesota State Fair. The sights, sounds and smells were overwhelming. But what really surprised me was the amount of noise that was generated by the bleating sheep.
I said it was by Divine appointment that I was there, and this is the absolute truth. I had no desire to see the sheep but wanted to see the Rabbits for I absolutely love rabbits. As I was looking at the rabbits It was only about 20 feet from there to the entrance to the sheep barn and I heard a voice loud and clear telling me to go and examine the sheep. As I mentioned a moment ago the first thing that struck me was how unbelievably loud these bleating sheep where. It was deafening. Adding to the noise, was the fact that the sheep judging was taking place at that time, so there was the added noise from the crowd gathered to watch the judging and the announcer on his microphone as he would announce the winners.
The second item that caught my attention is that these were all prize worthy animals, yet I could see little blemishes on almost every sheep that I examined.
At the time I was teaching a class on the Old Testament Sanctuary and so the experience of seeing the sheep hearing there sounds and trying to find a spotless unblemished sheep which was nearly impossible all made sense to me, I began to understand the plight of each head of household as they searched for their lamb to be sacrificed and another to be eaten at the Passover meal. John the Baptist called Jesus the Lamb of God and so the lambs that were eaten as part of the Passover meal and those that were sacrificed were to be without spot or blemish representing the coming Messiah, the spotless Lamb of God.
The Passover was one of the yearly feasts that all were required to celebrate. This celebration had happened almost continually since the Israelites had left Egypt. The people believed that if they failed to celebrate the Passover they and their family would not receive a blessing. Therefore, Jesus and His disciples and thousands of others traveled to Jerusalem all seeking a blessing, but not Jesus, He did not seek to gain a blessing but to be a blessing to others.
Levitical Law had prescribed that when they came to Passover that each family should bring a Passover lamp to be sacrificed. Naturally the Passover lamp symbolic of sacrifice of Jesus for the remission of sins. But during Passover week, there being such a large number of people and many coming from distant lands it was not always practical to travel long distances while bringing a lamb in tow. For this reason, the sale of sacrificial animals had begun to take place in Jerusalem. Herein lay the problem, for the temple courts were now filled with a immoral throng. So, for the convenience of those that traveled great distances sacrificial animals were bought and sold in the outer court of the temple. Here is where all classes of people assembled to purchase their offerings and it was also in this court that all foreign money was exchanged for the coin of the sanctuary.
It was also customary at Passover time to pay the yearly temple half shekel. This temple half shekel was used as a symbol “as a ransom for his soul.” This was symbolic of Christ purchasing lost sinner with his death upon the cross. The money collected as a ransom for their souls was used in the support of the temple (see Exodus 30:12-16). To make matters even more chaotic large sums of money were brought to the temple as a freewill offering and deposited in the temple treasury. This all sounds rather innocent doesn’t it?
So, why would Jesus create a whip out of cords, chasing the money changers and animal merchants out of the temple when it appears this was an acceptable practice? Jesus further stated that this house was a house of prayer and not a farmer’s market. Sounds like pretty harsh statement against what had become an acceptable practice.
You see, the dealers demanded exorbitant prices for the animals sold, then shared their profits with the priests and rulers, who thus enriched themselves at the expense of the people. Worshipers had been taught that in order to be blessed by God the head of each family must bring a sacrifice and if one could not be brought then it must be bought for them to receive their blessings. Thus a reasonable sum for the purchase of an animal would be as we would put it today the Christian way to do things. But this was not the case for huge sums were paid for each animal and when exchanging coins of foreign lands into temple coins, the exchange rate was exorbitant.
With all the arguing and haggling going on is it any wonder that the blessing of the Passover was being missed. Is it any wonder that the people were upset at the religious leaders who were becoming richer at the expense of the poor or those that had traveled a great distance?
Moses had instructed the people to eat the lamb roasted with not a bone to be broken and to eat it with unleavened bread and hyssop or bitter herbs.
The blood from the lamb was to be sprinkled on the door post and the lentil of the door. So when the destroying angel came, he would Passover the house of all who had sprinkled their door posts and lentil with the blood of the lamb.
Because of sin, all are subject to the wages of sin which is death, but Christ came as the Lamb of God who comes to take away the sins of the people and so when the destroying angel comes again in the last day, all who accept the spilt blood of the lamb of God will not suffer the second death which is permanent separation from God.
So why the whip and angry remarks from Jesus? Or where they really angry remarks? We will explore this more in our next post.