15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves;
16 and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.
17 He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”
18 And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.
19 And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples[a] went out of the city.
I really like the way John, chapter 2 relays the story:
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.
16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Whips, doves flying, and consuming zeal. Wow. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on John 2 gives more detail:
The Feast of Passover commemorated Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt—when the Lord killed, by His death angel, the firstborn of the Egyptians but passed over the houses of the Israelites (Ex. 12:23–27). It was celebrated annually on the fourteenth day of Nisan (March/April). On that day, between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m., lambs were slaughtered and the Passover meal eaten. In obedience to Exodus 23:14–17, Jesus went up to Jerusalem to observe both the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread which immediately followed (cf. Ezek. 45:21; Luke 22:1; Acts 12:3–4). This is the first of three Passovers mentioned in John’s gospel (cf. 6:4; 11:55).
Upon His arrival, Jesus would have found Jerusalem teeming with Jewish pilgrims from all around the Roman world, there to celebrate this foremost of Jewish feasts. Because of the multitudes who came, Passover meant big business for Jerusalem-based merchants. In the temple complex, where they had set up shop (probably in the court of the Gentiles), vendors were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Since it was impractical for those traveling from distant lands to bring their own animals, the merchants sold them the animals required for the sacrifices—at greatly inflated prices. The money changers also provided a necessary service. Every Jewish male twenty years of age or older had to pay the annual temple tax (Ex. 30:13–14; Matt. 17:24–27). But it could be paid only using Jewish or Tyrian coins (because of the purity of their silver content), so foreigners had to exchange their money for acceptable coinage. Because they had a monopoly on the market, the money changers charged an exorbitant fee for their services (as high as 12.5 percent [F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 74]).
What had begun as a service to the worshipers had, under the corrupt rule of the chief priests, degenerated into exploitation and usury. Religion had become external, crass, and materialistic; the temple of God had become a “robbers’ den” (Matt. 21:13).
As He surveyed the sacred temple grounds now turned into a bazaar, Jesus was appalled and outraged. The worshipful atmosphere that befitted the temple, as the symbol of God’s presence, was completely absent. What should have been a place of sacred reverence and adoration had become a place of abusive commerce and excessive overpricing. The sound of heartfelt praise and fervent prayers had been drowned out by the bawling of oxen, the bleating of sheep, the cooing of doves, and the loud haggling of vendors and their customers.
Realizing that the purity of temple worship was a matter of honor to God, Jesus took swift and decisive action. Making a scourge of cords (probably from those used to tie the animals), He drove all the merchants out of the temple, along with their sheep and oxen. In addition, He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, an amazing feat for one man in the light of the resistance that must have come.
My thought for the night: What, done unrighteously, in the name of God, upsets you? And what have you done about it?