Summary: The first thing Jesus did after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem was to clean house. He cleanses the Temple of it’s sinfulness. What can this teach us about the need for purity and holiness in our churches and our personal lives?
OPEN: About 50 years ago there was a great preacher in the Washington D.C. area named Peter Marshall. I once read one of his sermons and found the following description of the scene we just read about in Matthew:
“It is early morning, but already the temple court is a bedlam of activity and noise. (pause…)
Among the tables of the moneychangers, the cages of doves and the stalls of cattle, people are crowding about, chatting with their friends, selecting a dove for sacrifice, getting their money from countries like Persia, Egypt or Greece exchanged into the sacred half-shekel of the sanctuary.
It’s convenient. It’s convenient to buy sacrifices on the spot instead of having to drag them from a distance. It is helpful to be able to exchange money bearing upon it the head of the emperor (a graven image and therefore unacceptable in the Temple) for the statutory half-shekel.
And SO, convenient for all - and profitable to many - the temple huckstering has become a recognized institution.
Shrill voices - arguing - bickering - swearing angrily - the metallic tinkle of coins as they drop into the moneyboxes on the table…all the signs of greed can be heard... (pause) just outside the Holy Place.
There is no serenity.
No one can pray there.
Suddenly there is a lull in the confusion. Startled at the sudden quiet, we look up to find a strange yet hauntingly familiar figure standing between 2 of the gigantic stone columns.
His face burning with intensity.
His face magnificent in its wrath.
As He steps forward with a resolution and firmness born of the terrible conviction within Him, there is a look in His eyes before which men break away.
His lips are drawn into a thin line.
Stooping down, He picks up some binding cords which the merchants have discarded.
And deftly He knots them into a whip.
There is something in His attitude, - in His eyes - in His face - in that ominous silence in which He stands watching, which makes men look at Him with an uneasiness in their eyes
And then… the full fury of His wrath breaks.
In a few long strides He is across the court.
Picking up the boxes filled with money—scornfully and deliberately—He empties them on the stone floor... and coins spill with a clatter… rolling off in a 100 direct directions.
Tables go crashing to the floor, and the moneychangers rush to gather up their coins from the filth. In their greed—made all the more frantic because of their fear —they grovel in the dirt, pouncing upon their money screaming in protest as the Man with the whip stands over them.
(pause) And THEN He drives out the terror-stricken cattle. The muscles of His arms stand out like cords; lights dart from His eyes.
Not a voice is heard in protest... not a hand is raised against Him.
Even the Temple guards only stand and watch helplessly
His magnificent figure dominates the scene.
His voice rings out, echoing among the stone pillars…
and sounds like the voice of doom
like the voice of God Himself...
‘It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer but ye have made it a den of thieves.’”
(from "John Doe, Disciple" by Peter Marshall)
APPLY: Jesus was angry.
He was furious.
But why? What made Him so angry?
ILLUS: According to one preacher: the Jewish Temple - where this incident occurred - was a magnificent structure. It soared roughly fifteen stories above the Kidron Valley to the east. It was a huge facility, nearly 500 yards long and 400 yards wide. The outer court of the Temple was nearly the size of 48 College basketball courts.
The temple had become a veritable shopping mall. Pens of sheep, goats, doves, and other animals for sacrifice were everywhere. Moneychangers operated several of the tables.
And in one sense, these merchants provided a needed service.
Worshippers had come from great distances and they were expected to offer animal sacrifices and financial gifts at the Temple. And these pilgrims found it… convenient.
But what had started out as a convenience turned into a very profitable money making scheme.
The priests and local politicians maintained strict control over franchises in the temple area… and they often demanded a kickback. Once merchants had a corner on the market, they felt free to do as they pleased. Moneychangers would charge high fees to exchange shekels for pagan coins Likewise, those who sold sacrificial animals would mark up their prices too.
And just in case, someone got the wise idea to set up a competing market elsewhere and undercut the temple sellers, the priests had that covered too.
Before an animal could be sacrificed it had to pass a temple inspection. And the priests would simply rejected any animal that didn’t come from their licensed merchants.