When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive 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.”
47 Every 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. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
There are a couple of things going on here. First, thousands of people are in town for Passover, so the tables and the money exchangers this isn’t a common thing. These people are here because everyone who is coming for the festival needs salt, wine and oil. They might also need smaller animal sacrifices like birds.. so these vendors set up shop. And you can imagine it’s just like buying food or souvenirs at the carnival, because you didn’t bring these items with you – they hike up the prices – so they are ripping the people off.
Second, the Jewish temple isn’t going to allow you to pay your tithe with a Roman coin. You can’t have the graven image of a Roman ruler used inside God’s house. So what do you do? Well, you have to have your everyday money converted to a Jewish shekel. Well, the only problem there is, nobody mints Jewish sheckles anymore, and so nobody carries them. So if you want to pay the temple tax, you have to have your money converted.
And if I have Jewish shekles and you want them…. I’m going to rob you on the exchange rate. Jesus steps in and he says, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.”
So obviously Jesus is mad that people are using the temple for gain and for profit, but he also says, My house will be called a house of prayer. Do you know why he says that?
Well because these racketeerers were not allowed INSIDE the temple, so they are forced to set up shop right at the entrance as people were walking in. But these shop owners were setting up their tables right where some people worship and pray.
You see, this entrance courtyard was as close as the blind and the lame could get to the temple. They were not allowed inside because of their condition. And so Jesus walks up and this is what he sees: the blind and the lame standing off to the side confused and with no place to worship.
And in the place where prayer was usually taking place, retailer and small business owners had set up shop and were taking advantage of people who had come to worship.
So this is why Jesus gets so passionate. It’s not because he was prone to anger or violence, but because of the disrespect that was being shown to the worshipers and to the house of God.
And here is something to think about. Jesus does this… because nobody else was doing it. And if nobody else was doing it, that meant that the temple “authority” didn’t care, in fact, they liked it this way.
And I think what is so striking about this story is that we tell this story to show a side of Christ’s humanity that we don’t normally see. I think this story proves that Jesus wasn’t some passionless, expressionless robot, right? In fact the writers of the Bible don’t even know where to put this story. Matthew, Mark and Luke all put this story at the end of their gospels and John puts it at the beginning of his. So let me ask you a question – where do you put this story?
I mean when you picture Jesus in your head, when you think about Jesus as your savior and king, your friend and your God – where does this Jesus go?
How do you reconcile this in your mind?
Does it fit?
Do you like this Jesus?
John even goes so far as to say that he made a whip – do you know what a whip is? He probably used it to drive out and scare the animals, but a whip can be threatening, a whip is a weapon.
I like this story and I like this Jesus because it reminds me even more of Christ’s humanity. I think we can all agree that Jesus was human, but I think we often forget how much.
What about you? Do you like this Jesus?