JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE
Matt 21:12-17 And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, and said unto Him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and He lodged there. (Also see Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48)
Mark's account of this event is preceded by the lesson Jesus taught His apostles after having led them past a barren fig tree. Matthew records the same event following the lesson text, and Luke does not mention it. Therefore, we will give thought to that lesson following the one found in the lesson text.
Some bible scholars contend that Jesus went into the temple, observed the irreverent actions taking place, left and spent the night in Bethany, returned the following day, and demonstrated His anger and disgust on those that were "polluting" God's holy temple. Without debating the chronological order of this event, let us consider the lessons this text brings to mind. Here we find Jesus, after entering Jerusalem, going into the temple of God. The original magnificently constructed temple of God was built under the supervision of King Solomon sometime around 1005 B.C. Approximately 420 years later, it was restored by the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar, and was later rebuilt under the direction of Zerubbabel, with much less splendor than the original it replaced. It fell into significant disrepair over the years until the 18th year of the reign of King Herod the Great. Although this temple was never completely destroyed, Herod completely remodeled it into practically a new structure. Much of the magnificence of the original temple was restored and completed approximately eight years before the birth of Jesus. Therefore, at the time He entered it, according to the lesson text, the temple was a magnificent structure that was dedicated to God and scripturally designed for the Jewish people, through their priests, to give due worship to Him.
Recognizing the profane business being carried out that was defiling the sanctity of the holy temple of God, Jesus immediately began to cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. This was not the first time Jesus drove traders out of the temple. Looking back to the time that Jesus attended the first Passover during His ministry on earth, He cast out those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money, and even used a scourge of small cords to do so, saying to them, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise (See John 2:13-16). Here in the lesson text we find Jesus doing the same thing shortly before the final Passover He would attend after beginning His public ministry.
The sale of animals required for sacrifices, and the changing of foreign currency into Jewish coins with which to pay required temple dues, was provided by tradesmen as a service. Such transactions were, not only for the convenience of worshipers, but were necessary for those that traveled to Jerusalem from distant lands for those Holy Days. Although such transactions were necessary, Jesus assured us that they were not to be carried on within the temple of God, or its surrounding courts. These were holy in God's eyes and were to be so among the people of the Jewish nation. Mark says that it was sacrilege for a man to carry any vessel through the temple (Mark 11:16), which would be necessary for such merchandisers. The prophet Isaiah recorded this command of God that restricted the use of His temple: Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people (Isa. 56:7). These profane traders had made it a den of thieves. From this lesson we find Jesus teaching His church today. Those elevated into positions of service to the congregation and fail to do so, as well as those receiving financial support to teach the gospel of salvation, and do so only for financial gain, are thieves that are no less guilty than those in the lesson text.
Only the worship of God and the mercy He extended to the children of Israel was to take place within His temple. It should be noted here that the Tabernacle used to worship God during the wilderness wanderings by the Jewish nation, as well as the permanent Temple of God after the possession of the land of Canaan, were both sanctified by God and held spiritual significance. However, the kingdom of Christ, the church which was established on the Day of Pentecost following Jesus' death on the cross of Calvary, is not a building having spiritual meaning. Rather the church of Christ is made up of obedient Christians with whom worship of God can take place within a structure used for that purpose, a home of an individual, or by a river side, as it took place in the city of Philippi (See Acts 16:12-13). But back to the lesson text, with the buyers and sellers of sacrificial animals, as well as the moneychangers, being cast out of the temple, Jesus gave an example of God's mercy demonstrated toward His children that shows a use of the temple grounds that is approved of God. It appears that Jesus entered the temple and immediately the blind and the lame, came, and He healed them. Another lesson we find here it that, although physical healing took place in the temple of God during this biblical age, the spiritually blind and lame can only be healed within the body of Christ today.
And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased. No doubt these Jewish leaders envied the popularity of Jesus among the people. Because of this, they continued to search for faults with Him at every opportunity to do so. Therefore they became incensed and showed their displeasure with a number of things that had taken place here in the temple of God. First, they took offense in the fact that Jesus demonstrated His authority over the merchandising that took place within the temple. The reason for this, according to biblical scholars, was that these leaders had authorized, and received large monetary benefits from the profits of such trading. Secondly, they became incenses over the popularity Jesus gained from the people that observed His healing powers, which He compassionately demonstrated by restoring those that were sick and afflicted in any way, to perfect health. Thirdly, they were sore displeased when the children openly and joyously joined with His devoted disciples and acclaimed Him to be the Son of David, by which they declared Him to be the promised Messiah.
Throughout the New Testament gospel messages, Jesus' love and devotion to young children is well documented. He considered their sinless lives and openness to accepting the doctrine He taught as examples for His followers to emulate. Here, in the lesson text, He chastises the chief priests and scribes that found fault with the children's public display of adoration for Jesus whom they detested, thought to be an imposter, and sought to have slain. Jesus answered the outrage they had over the demonstrations of these children by quoting, in a rhetorical question form, the essence of Psalm 8:2. Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? Knowing that they had read this passage, Jesus was insinuating that they knew not its meaning. Often the praise of adults toward others is nothing more than insincere flattery given in order to gain their favor. However, the praise coming from the pure, unbiased minds of children is nothing less than perfected praise!
Although Jesus cleaned the temple of God, ...called the house of prayer, by banishing the traders from its premises, He could not clean the prejudiced minds of the self-righteous chief priests and scribes, who, within a few short days, would, by lies and bribery, be responsible for His death!