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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE

John 2:13-17 And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father's house an house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.

Jesus was born into this world with Jewish parentage. As a Jew, He was subject to the law established by God through Moses on Mount Sinai. One element of this law was the observance of the Jews' Passover that was at hand. The event that established the meaning behind the Passover came about during the last days of the Jews sojourn in Egypt. As punishment to the hard-hearted Egyptians for refusing to free the Jews from bondage and allow them to return to the land of Canaan, God performed His final plague against them. He promised to destroy all of the first-born of Egypt, including men, women, servants, and beasts (See Ex. 11:4-10). In Exodus 12:1-14, God warns the Israelites to take a sacrificial sheep or goat, slay it, and, with its blood, apply it to the upper door post of their houses.

With this token of blood upon their door, God promised to pass over their home and save all the first-born of the Jews. The last verse of this passage establishes the Passover as an observance required of all Jews. And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever (Ex. 12:14). Because every male Jew was required to assemble for this feast in Jerusalem, Jesus obediently went up to observe the Passover, the first of which He observed after beginning His earthly ministry. In all, Jesus celebrated four Passover feasts during the remaining years He spent on earth. The second is mentioned in Luke 6:1, the third, in John 6:4, and the fourth immediately before His crucifixion, which can be found in John 11:55.

In the lesson text, we find Jesus in Jerusalem entering the courts of the temple. Verse 14 tells us that what He found were those that sold oxen and sheep and doves. To make necessary animal sacrifices by Jews that had traveled great distances for the observance of Passover, it was necessary to purchase them in Jerusalem. With thousands and thousands of Jews attending this feast, the buying and selling of these animals had become a huge commercial venture. According to many historians, the buying and selling of animal sacrifices was so lucrative that the priests monopolized it, desecrating the temple grounds by installing booths in order to carry on this "profitable" trade. Not only was this trade carried out at the temple, but also there were changers of money sitting in booths, exchanging foreign currency, for a large service fee, into the shekel denominations necessary to support the temple and its services (See Ex. 30:13).

Seeing the commercial sacrilege taking place on these holy grounds, Jesus made a scourge of small cords, (and) He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables. The "scourge" Jesus used was made by Him on the spur of the moment. It probably consisted of leather cords or bull rushes used for cattle bedding. It certainly was not the type that was used by the judicial system to punish a criminal. These were specifically designed leather thongs that were knotted and contained metal or bone fragments that inflicted brutal punishment. The scourge probably created more fear than physical harm, because it says that He drove them all out of the temple, not only the trading agents, but also the sheep, and the oxen. He then disrupted the moneychangers by pouring out their monies and turning over their tables, and rebuked them that sold doves for sacrificial purposes. To all participating in this sacrilege Jesus admonished them by saying, Take these things hence; make not My Father's house an house of merchandise (See Vss. 15-16).

Quoting Psalm 69:9a, John wrote, And His disciples remembered that it was written; The zeal of thine house hath eaten Me up. In other words, the intense desire of Jesus for the pure worship of God in His temple had been devoured, which led Him to seek revengeful retribution instead of reverential worship.