Jesus and his disciples went to Jerusalem for the Passover and when they went to the temple it was filled with people selling animals for sacrifice and money changers to help the pilgrims with money issues. There wasn’t anything wrong with what they were doing. The Jews that flooded Jerusalem during the Passover needed sacrifices and money. Some likely brought their own but many probably saved up each year to afford to buy something when they arrived in the city.
It wasn’t what they were doing that was wrong it was where they were doing it and the motivation behind their actions that had a problem. They were at the temple, a place that was supposed to be holy, and kept holy. This was supposed to be where people came to worship The LORD, this was where His presence came. These people were not here to do a service for the visiting Jews. They could have done that in the market or by the side of the road. They were here to ilk the worshippers, sojourners, and citizens. They were defiling the temple by making the temple a market place instead of a house of prayer. Money was their god rather than the LORD being their God.
It hurt Jesus to see it. It hurt Him to see blatant idolatry where there should have been unabashed joy, prayer, and adoration for His Father. So Jesus did something shocking. Verses 15-17 read,
“And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
He drove them all out and then He overturned there tables and emptied out their money. He didn’t whip people, He didn’t hurt anyone. He forced them and their animals out of the temple. He took ownership of the temple, responsibility for keeping it as it should be. He didn’t assume someone else would do the job. He didn’t report it to the High Priest and hope that he would take care of. He did something about it. He reminded those people this was the temple, a holy place set aside for God.
He did something else far more shocking than drive them out of the temple. He referred to the temple as His Father’s house. He told everyone who He was. He spoke His authority as the Son of God. Perhaps because people were surprised at His actions they missed the significance of what He said. Three years later at Passover, He would be crucified for calling Himself the Son of God. But on this day, the reaction He got was different.
The Jews wanted to know what right Jesus had to force them to take their businesses elsewhere. They obviously acknowledge He had some clout, but they wanted more. Perhaps they were feeling a bit indignant that their sin had been exposed. It wasn’t a hostile question that they asked. It was more like, a ‘whooooa Duuuuude, who are you’ kind of thing. Verses 18-19 read,
“So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
They heard the words and were incredulous, that temple had been built over many years by the blood and sweat of many people. There was no way any one person could rebuild in just three days. There was no way even a thousand men could do that. But Jesus wasn’t referring to the temple building, but the temple of His Body.
Like the temple, He had been set aside for a special purpose. His purpose was our salvation. And when they destroyed His body, He would restore it in three days. Jesus had revealed the profound truth to those people and most of them completely missed it. Some, like His disciples didn’t fully understand it, but they kept it in their hearts and would be reminded of it when The Holy Spirit revealed everything to them.
Jesus did everything with purpose. Nothing He did just happened. When Jesus drove the sellers and money changers out of the temple, He wasn’t merely cleansing a building. He was showing us that it is not money, not law, nor anything else that should be seated in the Holy of holies of our heart. It is God who belongs there. We are the temple of God. We belong to Him and Jesus has the authority to rid us of all the crap we have put where He should be.
Is your temple kept Holy? Are you serving God or money? Are you worshipping the LORD with unabashed joy and prayer or are you serving the law and doing what looks right? Does Jesus need to drive the sellers and money changers, the schedules, the programs, the to do lists, or any other idols out of your temple?