12 Jesus entered the temple courts 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. 13 “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.’”
Temple behavior expectations were on red alert after Jesus came into Jerusalem on a donkey. The next action he performed only added fuel to the fire. Only priests could enter the temple, which took up a small part of the mount and was surrounded by three courts. Israelite men could enter the court closest to the temple. Israelite men and women could occupy the next court. But the Court of the Gentiles (which is where I would be), was the court furthest from the temple. It was the closest a non-Jew could get to the sanctuary.
From around the world, first-century Jews came to the temple at Passover to sacrifice to the Lord. It was impractical to bring sacrificial animals long distances, so they were made available for purchase in Jerusalem. Most Jews paid the temple tax at Passover, and moneychangers were there to convert Roman coinage into appropriate currency. Pagan slogans on Roman money made it unacceptable for the house of the Lord. Though not inherently evil, these practices became occasions for sin. Travelers were paying ridiculous rates to exchange money. Sellers exploited those in poverty by overcharging poor men’s offerings of pigeons and doves. To make things worse, these merchants set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles, making it useless as a place of prayer due to the hustle and bustle the buying and selling created.
For this reason, Jesus drove out the sellers (Matt. 21:12). These merchants and the priests who allowed their presence cared nothing for true worship as long as they could make money and keep their rituals. Our Savior hated this, as it kept the nations from learning about the living God in His sanctuary. We cannot underestimate the importance of this act. It showed Jesus as having authority to purify and take charge of the temple, a task that put him more at odds with the Sanhedrin, or the folks in charge.
At the very least, Jesus’s cleansing of the temple illustrates how concerned he is with purity of worship. Our corporate praise and prayer is always in need of reformation, as it is easy for anti-Christian practices to slip in unnoticed. Consider the importance of pure worship from a devoted heart and make it your aim to show reverence and awe when you praise the Lord alongside His people.