And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “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.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.
What a day! Entering the city hungry, whip in hand Jesus is a determined figure. What he had seen the previous evening had not impressed and Jesus has a plan of action. “He began to drive out those who sold and bought in the temple”. This was an all day assault on the established practices of the merchants and traders who came daily to manage the business of religion.
Some would leave quietly with little resistance, but there would be those who put up a fight, “and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.” If they had the temerity to set up shop against his will, Jesus soon made it obvious that for today at least, it would not be business as usual.
“And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple.” Even the mere act of carrying something within the temple grounds was out of order. Jesus must have been fearsome to behold! The temple grounds were not an insignificant plot of land and Jesus must have gone around time and again, moving people and animals along and herding them all out of the temple grounds.
” And he was teaching them and saying to them, “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.”” This was a master class in temple cleansing! There must have come a time when the people were prepared to listen and Jesus was happy to make explanation for doing what he did. It says the crowd was astonished at his teaching. Some would have rejoiced, many would have been confused, but most would have been annoyed at the inconvenience and delay his insistence upon the holiness of the temple would have caused them. Like many today, a little religion is seen to be good. But let’s not get carried away… it mustn’t interfere with our normal life, it can’t take up too much time in our day – lets just get our duty done and get on with life and all we have to do today.
Now, as then, we rush on by the holy, we miss God in the busyness and preoccupation of our lives. Jesus cleansing the temple makes us pause and linger in his presence, makes us clean up our act and focus on what is our true and proper response to God.
In the distance, however ,there is a menacing sound of low thunder. “And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him”. Anytime the hypocrisy and deception of religion is exposed and violated by the truth and purity of devotion to the one true God, there are those who quietly and treacherously plot the destruction of the one who dares to expose their schemes. Jesus is no exception and his comeuppance will be swift and sure.