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 a confrontation time! Jesus stood against the High priest overseeing a corrupt system. The Court of the Gentiles in the temple precincts had been taken over by money changers and merchants hired by Annas, Caiaphas' father-in-law, who was also a high priest. When birds or animals were brought to the Temple to be sacrificed, they were refused for no apparent reason other than the fact that Annas wanted more money. A worshipper who bought an animal inside the Temple precincts was charged fifteen times more than one purchased outside the Temple. If a person tried to save money by purchasing a lamb outside the temple, 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 going on and was responsible for this system of purchase and trade, exploiting the poor. The Temple tax also had to be paid in Israelite Shekels. Visitors from different nations would be shortchanged 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. The Lord had spoken that His house would be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7), but instead, it had become a place for the selling of animals and birds.

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 wrote: 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 Jesus for what He did that day. He was outraged at the religious leader's desecration of the temple courts and their corruption. Picture the scene: the money rolling everywhere, people scrambling for all they can grab as tables overturned, doves flying in all directions, getting their freedom instead of being used for dishonest profit. The picture was one of chaos inside the Court of the Gentiles.

Can you imagine the leading Jews being challenged by someone whom they believed was an illegitimate son from Nazareth? (John 8:41). Their thoughts turned toward violence as Christ questioned their practices. 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 enthusiasm for the Lord’s house. May this same attitude be in us too, a passion for the household of faith. Keith Thomas

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke. Click on study 52. The King Comes to His Temple.