The Temple Cleansing

The temple cleansing is a perfect example of what Jesus is doing in the hearts of His followers these days. Jesus was an activist, a protestor, an agitator. He held a one-man demonstration in the market-place giving us a perfect formula and mandate for social action against the economic policies of the One World Order and the World Trade Organization. It is our responsibility as the Bride of Christ to make men holy and bring them into the Holy of Holies. Here in the Temple, however, Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple completely. Those in Babylon have a choice, enter the Holy Place or be driven out of the court.

The outer court of the temple was called the court of the Gentiles. Here there was a large bazaar for the sale of sacrificial animals and birds, and also a money-exchange for changing foreign coins for the Jewish half-shekels. Our Lord did not condemn the sale of what was necessary for the sacrifices, but the place where the sale was held, the Temple, the house of prayer. The Court of the Gentiles was so crowded with business, there was no room for "a house of prayer for all nations." It began as a convenience for those who came with animals and foreign money. For the purpose of paying the temple tax, Roman money or live-stock had to be converted into the sacred shekel or double drachma. In time avaricious motives cloaked this convenience. The people could easily be cheated over the rate of exchange and a man invariably loses money on the transaction. For this Roman piece he gets less than half in the people's own money, because he has to pay the agio, the premium for changing cash; that is how the money-changers around the Temple get rich, men like the pseudo high priest Annas and his friends. One had to pay for doves and lambs, for burnt offerings on the altar - and charged 5 times what they are worth. The profit of that also went to Annas and his friends.

We find in the Talmud that doves were usually sold in the shops belonging to the family of Annas on the Mount of Olives who had so multiplied the occasions for offering them that a single dove cost a gold piece, until reduced by the teachings of Simeon, the son of Gamaliel. The vicinity of the Court of the Gentiles, with its broad spaces and long arcades, had been too tempting to Jewish greed. Shop keepers and the exchange booths of the usurers gradually crept into the sacred enclosures. This vast courtyard of the Temple had been made their own by the money-changers and by the salesmen of sacrificial animals. And this was the entrance, the court to the Temple of the most high.

The Greek word translated Temple usually refers to the whole complex of buildings rather than to the central shrine. Everywhere there was a stall or shop, more than 3000 in all, arranged by commodity for the shopper's convenience. There was one for ironware and kitchen utensils, another for wool and clothing, livestock, bread and grain, fresh fruits and vegetables. Even alcoholic beverages had their place, and from their manner these merchants may have liberally sampled their own wares. Vendors haggling over their goods, and no stall, however small, that did not pay its tithe to the High Priests of Israel. Jews scattered all over the face of the earth, prosperous some of them, many poor, but all sending back money for the temple funds.

It grieves Jesus even now to see that His religion is being used to market the people. The spirit of the Law is violated and God's house is still being exploited as a merchandising gimmick. Pilgrims were then at the mercy of these profiteers. Jesus found the fore-court, the court of the Gentiles, turned into a bustling market.

There were two cleansings of Jesus of the Temple at Jerusalem. "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 you have made it a den of thieves.'" "Take these things hence, make not My father's house a house of merchandise." Jesus made a scourge of little cords, this is the only thing we know that he ever made. The money was scattered all over the floor, already fouled with the excrement of thousands of animals; the animals were driven out with the profiteers who sold them; at his orders, the sellers of birds picked up their cages and ran like the rest.

Jesus justified his action by quoting two of the prophets Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. John tells us only that he accused these people of making his father's house a house of merchandise. The outer court of the Temple had become a stable reeking with dung, and it echoed with the bellowing of oxen, the bleat of sheep, the cooing of doves, and the cries of the traders and money-changers installed within its porticos. In that court it was possible to hear only faintly the hymns rising within the inner Temple and to glimpse but dimly the glow of the distant holy lamps. The Temple agents were there too; they had orders to follow him everywhere. What is going to happen when He breaks into Jerusalem with tumultuous hosannas and enthusiasts swirling like waters in a flood? They swept on through the gates of the city. Down go the tables of the money-changers, their coins scattering on the pavement. Traders flee in fear before His uplifted scourge. Chaos reigns. Not one of them dares to say a word. "For the zeal of Your house has eaten me up and the reproaches of them that reproached You are fallen upon Me." And then he taught in the temple with authority and the blind and the lame came and Jesus healed them.
[289, 290, 309, 318, 324, 325, 347, 355, 383, 390, Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, John 2, Psalms 69:9]

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