Summary: Today is Palm Sunday, the day Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Last year, I focused on Jesus weeping as he entered Jerusalem. After the triumphal entry, there was another incident where Jesus got emotional.
Today is Palm Sunday, the day Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Last year, my sermon was titled, the Emotional Jesus. I focused on Jesus weeping as he entered Jerusalem. He was very concerned about people's souls. After the triumphal entry, there was another incident where Jesus got emotional. But this time he wasn't weeping, he was sweeping.
1) Cleaning house.
It's getting to be that time of year when we start thinking about spring cleaning. We're in the process of cleaning out our closets and storage areas. It's interesting what you find in these places. Well, Jesus did some spring cleaning of his own, so to speak.
Matt. 21:12-13, "Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.’’”
Jesus was a man on a mission. He makes his triumphal entry and his first order of business is to get to the temple. In Mark's gospel, he includes that Jesus went to the temple right after entering Jerusalem but things had shut down for the evening so he went to Bethany. Then he got up in the morning and went back to the temple and cleaned house.
The temple area included sections called courts. There was a gentile court where non-Jewish converts were able to worship. Beyond that you would go through the beautiful gate and into the women's court. No coincidence that you needed to go through the gate called beautiful to get to the women's area.
Then beyond that would be the men's court and beyond that would be the priestly court. Then you would enter into the temple itself, at the center of which behind a thick, heavy curtain was the Holy of Holies, where a priest could enter once a year and be in the presence of God.
The area where Jesus drove everyone out would've been the gentile court area. The religious leaders probably wouldn't have given it much thought that they were infringing on the gentile converts' worship space but Jesus had an issue with it. Jesus quoted Isaiah 56:7 that talked about the temple being a house of prayer for all nations.
But this wasn't the only mistake the chief priests made. "You are making it a den of robbers". Here Jesus is quoting Jer. 7:11 where God was calling his people to account for sinning and following other gods and then going to the temple thinking everything was ok.
So Jesus tells the chief priests that they had turned God's house into a den of robbers. How so? They were robbing the gentile converts of worship. How could they worship and pray with all that commotion? It would be like trying to hold a church service on the Midway at the State Fair.
This was during Passover; the time of year when people, mostly Jews, from far and wide came to offer sacrifices and worship. It is estimated that about 100,000 people lived in Jerusalem. But, during Passover week, that total jumped to about 2 million. Obviously they couldn't all be in the temple areas at the same time, but I'm sure you can get a picture of how crowded the temple area would be.
So, in the gentile court area there were people, animals, those selling animals, the money changers, all that. It was normal to have the money changers and those selling animals in Jerusalem during Passover. With many of the people coming from a great distance, it would be inconvenient for them to bring their animal sacrifices all that way.
The money changers were needed because foreign currency was not allowed to be put into the temple treasury. Every man was required to pay a half shekel, as per the command given to Moses in Ex. 30. Many of the coins in circulation would be Roman. So, the money changers were needed to make the exchange.
So the money changers and those selling animals were necessary. The problem wasn't that they were doing it, it was where they were doing it. They should not have been allowed on the temple grounds. If they were somewhere else, the people would've been prepared when they entered the temple area and would've made their way in without all the chaos.
So, with the chief priests allowing these merchants to set up shop in the gentile court, they were robbing the gentiles of being able to properly worship. Think about the times you've been at church, or on zoom and something distracted you. Depending on the severity of the distraction, it might be difficult to get your focus back on track and get your mind re-centered on worship. Jesus cleaning house was calling attention to the disrespect towards people trying to worship.