Cleaning House

John 2:13-22


Since people would have travelled to Jerusalem from all over, they would not have been able to bring animals for sacrifices with them and still be able to meet the ceremonial requirements for perfection.  Having a marketplace right within the Temple (Court of the Gentiles) would have been quite convenient.  At the same time, it would have been quite convenient for the priests who received a percentage from the sales.  In addition, Temple taxes were required to be paid by the Jews in the coin of Tyre.  Money changers were on hand to exchange other coins for the ones required for Temple taxes, sometimes at high fees:  Clearly, Passover was a time for commerce in the middle of the National House of Worship!

Jesus was filled with righteous indignation and drove the traders out, overturning their tables and ordering all of the goods to be removed.  Note that He did not harm the animals or confiscate the money; He was not doing this to cause harm, but rather to stop the desecration of the Temple.  His whip was made of rope, not leather.  It would have gotten a man’s attention, but it would not have caused anyone serious harm.  The issue that Jesus reacted to here was not that running a market and engaging in commerce was a bad or sinful thing in and of itself, but that the Temple was not the place for such things.  Remember, the Temple in Jerusalem during the Old Covenant was the dwelling place of God (in the Holy of holies).  The dwelling place of God, the place of His worship, was not to be taken callously and turned into a marketplace for personal enrichment: it was reserved for reverence.

In verse 17, John is quoting from Psalm 69:9.  The Psalmist is consumed with love for God’s house, and so is Jesus.  Jesus’ zeal for God’s house as a house of prayer has interesting possibilities for us to consider.  First, He certainly had a zeal for the Temple as a place of prayer, but a careful look at the Gospels will reveal that He is never portrayed as praying there.  He is mentioned to be praying in the desert, mountains and Sea, but not particularly at the Temple.  Of course, creative students will recall that the Temple in the OT is symbolic of a NT reality as mentioned several times in Hebrews.  In the NT, many will say that the Temple represents the church, not a building, but the Body of Christ wherein He dwells through the Holy Spirit.  It may be said that this approach is a bit of a stretch to apply to this passage, but it is interesting to ponder.  What is clear, however is that His consummation took place at the time of His crucifixion, which was done for the forgiveness of sins that His people could be redeemed… and so that all peoples could be redeemed into the Body of Christ.

Naturally, the authorities demanded a sign of His authority.  What Jesus gave in reply seemed ridiculous to those who can only think of the physical, but after the resurrection, His disciples understood that the Temple He referred to was that of His own Body.

Hmm… so what do you think?

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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8 Responses to Cleaning House

  1. I think, just because the Scripture doesn’t say he prayed in the temple, doesn’t mean He didn’t. Jesus found cause to pray wherever He felt the need. Knowing that prayer was supposed to be something personal, mostly private, something that is supposed to be between us and God and this was, mostly, His example. He spoke against the religious leaders who made lengthy prayers in public just to be heard making prayers. As the body of Christ we are the temple. Separately and corporately, coming together we see the glory of God, while the Holy Spirit works in us individually.
    Good stuff, great post.

  2. John says:

    It’s also interesting to note that Paul states twice in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 that under the New Covenant, we are the temple and the Holy Spirit is in us. He wasn’t telling this to a highly “moral” congregation either. These were people who were still committing sexual acts and the like. It seems he was trying to get them to let Jesus clean up their “temple.”

  3. janjoy52 says:

    I immediately thought of the passage where Paul says I was bought with a price and MY body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Then back to your present discussion about Jesus cleansing the Temple I connected the the dots and concluded MY body needs to be a house of prayer.

  4. I’m not so certain that he was objecting to simple marketing and money exchange, if that were the case then every church with a book sale or fair would be in trouble. Looking at the words given, and what was going on:

    “My house shall be called a house of prayer ‘; but you make it a den of robbers”

    The activités were in cheating the people. Money exchanges were far above the going rates, with the Temple priests getting a cut of the prophets.

    A Temple sacrifice had to be of an unblemished animal, certified by the priests of the Temple. Those purchased in the Temple grounds were banded, the priests given a cut of the sale, and thus met immediate approval. Those without the band were purchased outside and, thus, the priests received no financial kickback and would be easy for them to reject.

    I like to liken this to the NFL, MLB, or NHL. Vendors outside selling some of the same products as inside, but at a considerable cost savings. Buy a non-licensed NFL jersey and run the risk of confiscation.

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