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Jesus Cleanses the Temple

It was a confrontation time! Jesus stood against the High priest overseeing a corrupt system. With the permission of high priest Caiphas, the high priest, and Annas, his father-in-law, the money changers and merchants, they had set up their tables of commerce in the Court of the Gentiles in the temple precincts. When worshipers brought birds or animals to the temple for sacrifice, if they tried to save money by buying a lamb outside the temple precincts, the priests who inspected the animals would often refuse it, thus forcing the worshipper to buy another animal inside the temple where the price was fifteen times as much.

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).

Annas presided over everything inside the temple grounds and was responsible for exploiting people with low incomes through this purchase and trade system. The Temple tax was also paid in Israelite Shekels. Visitors from different nations would be shortchanged and robbed, and they could do nothing against it. Instead of the Court of the Gentiles being a place where the Gentiles could pray and seek God, they smelled animal dung and the clink of coins. God said His house would be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7), but instead, it became a place to make money selling 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).

We see the controlled anger and passion of Jesus for His Father's Name and glory in the above verse. Later, the Apostle John wrote: His disciples remembered that it was written: "Zeal for your house will consume me" (John 2:17). His courage and zeal captured the hearts of those being cheated. Christ 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, and doves getting their freedom and flying in all directions. The picture was one of chaos inside the Court of the Gentiles.

Can you imagine the leading priesthood being challenged by someone 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?" Jesus must have known His 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.


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