Jesus Cleanses the Temple (First Time)
Today, we look at where Jesus cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem. Christ did this twice. In this passage in John is the first time and in Matthew 21 is the second time. Jesus drives out the corrupt merchandisers here at the beginning of His earthly ministry and the second time was at the end of His ministry right after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As always there is a reason Jesus did this. He was angry and He had reason to be angry. We are going to see why Jesus did what He did there and the reason for His anger, to see and understand why Jesus cleansed the Temple. Today's sermon is 'Cleaning House'.
I. Bad Business As Usual (v. 13-14 - Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business).
Passover had begun in Jerusalem and Jesus like so many other Jews went there to worship at the Temple. One commentator I read said that there were an overwhelming 2 million Jews that were there. The Jews came from all over the known world at that time making the pilgrimage to the Temple to carry out Passover. It was standard custom that every male Jew that were 12 years and over to go there every year at Passover time. On the tenth day of Passover a male lamb was taken. On the fourteenth day between three and six o'clock the male lamb was slaughtered and that night they had a feast. The feast was called the Passover Feast and it was to commemorate the passing over of the angel of death in Egypt in the ancient history of Israel. This was the scene when Jesus and His disciples came to Jerusalem. On the Temple grounds there were different areas like the Court of the Women, Court of the Priests, and the Court of the Gentiles and the real Temple was a little area there and was divided into two parts, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Where they sold the sacrificial animals and had the money changers was an 14 acre area called the Court of the Gentiles. It was the outer most area of the Temple grounds and here is where the problem that Jesus had a problem with. As we know the Jewish pilgrims had to present a sacrifice according to there means. Those who were well off offered the bulls or sheep and those that were poor offered a dove. To have a place to purchase an animal was easier for those traveling a great distance not to have to bring an animal along. Another thing was that every male Jew had to pay a temple tax of half a shekel every year and if one could not come it was sent through those who did come. The problem wasn't the selling of animals and other things needed for sacrifice, it was in the fact that the temple leaders were corrupt and greedy. The animals sold were either owned and sold by the High Priest and his family or people who were endorsed by them. Remember the sacrificial animals had to be defect free and if you bought it from one of them it was guaranteed to be used. If you brought your own they found any defect they could. Not only that they charged an exorbitant amount for them, an ancient historian of the time basically wrote that they were, in our money terms, selling nickel priced doves for $4.00. And the temple offering of a half shekel had to be exchanged for temple money. Most people carried and used the coin of the Roman empire that had Caesar's image on it and therefore could not be accepted into the temple treasury so it was exchanged here in the court of the Gentiles for a fee of course. These false family of High Priests were ripping off everyone who was coming to worship. They made it into a circus of loud bickering, pushing crowds of pilgrims, and the cha-ching of money being exchanged instead of a solemn time of worship. This is the greed and irreverence that Jesus encounters at the Temple at Jerusalem. This is the background we find when Jesus walks in.
II. Christ Cleanses the Temple (v. 15-17 - When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!" Then His disciples remembered that it was written, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.").
In the mess of this greedy sin and irreverence, Jesus becomes angry. It is holy indignation and Jesus looks around sees the cords of ropes lying strewn on the ground from the animals and makes it into a nice whip. He finishes making it and immediately begins to clean house. He beats the oxen and sheep out of the temple court, whips the people selling the animals out, turns over the money exchange tables and pours out the money, and it simply says Jesus drove them all out. And shouts to them all, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!”. This is not the portrait most churches paint of Jesus today, to them it's all about the love of Jesus and none of Jesus' hatred of sin. There must be a balance between the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” and the “wrath of the Lamb” against sin. Jesus could not tolerate this blasphemy of His “Father's House”; He could tolerate how they made light of this place of worship. Jesus took that whip and went left and right and drove all of those people out. And notice that no one stopped Jesus, not the temple guard, not the priests, not the sellers, not the buyers, not anyone. I believe they saw in the Lamb of God that day a small glimpse of Jesus the judge, in Rev. 6:16-17 it says, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! "For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”. The wrath of Christ was felt on a few backs that day and none dared stopped Him. Jesus is our savior from sin but for those who ignore that message there is laid up for them the full measure of the wrath of the Lamb (John 5:22 - For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son). Jesus hates sin and we as the children of God must hate the things that Jesus hates and love the things that He loves, we must be sickened and infuriated by the perversions of this world that the world loves and condones and to only love the righteous things of God. Those corrupt priests who changed the focus of worshiping, giving glory to God, and leading the people to worship God in repentance, changed it over to religious works and greed. The temple was about worship and the revealing of the truth of God in the future sacrifice of the Son but the corrupt priesthood made it all about them. We have churches today that have sacrificed the truth of God for lies that draw a lot of people and money without anyone feeling guilty about sin. People need to know Jesus hates sin and that's why Jesus died for us.
III. Christ's Authority Because He is Deity (v. 18-22 - So the Jews answered and said to Him, "What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said).
The rulers of the temple asked Jesus something here in v. 18. They didn't want to know why He drove out the sellers in the temple but by what authority He did it. They didn't ask why Jesus cleansed the temple because they knew they were guilty because it was wrong, they blasphemed the worship of God and committed the sin of usury against their own people. So knowing that they were called on their wrong by Jesus, they had an idea that Jesus was the Messiah but they asked for a sign to prove He was the Son of God, that He had the authority to call them on their sin. What Jesus had just did was proof enough for it fulfilled a prophecy in Malachi 3:1-2, “And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire And like launderer's soap”. It is a prophecy of Christ cleansing the temple. But Jesus told them of the sign He would give them and it was His resurrection. That He could lay down His life and take it back up again because only God in the flesh could do that.
In the cleansing of the temple Christ shows us His condemnation of sin (hatred and judgment of sin) and also He showed us His cure of sin in the death and resurrection of Jesus. When I heard the gospel message, I found out about how sinful I was and how it condemns me and I felt the guilt of my sin and the fear of facing the wrath of God; then I was told how Jesus loved me enough that He died for me and rose from the dead to justify me before God the Father. We as the children of God need to hate sin and evil just as much as Jesus did. We need to be sickened and put off by the perversions of this world and learn to love the holiness and purity of Christ our Savior. And we need to tell the world that only Jesus can save from sin and they don't have to face the wrath of the Lamb. There is salvation and hope found in the finished work of salvation in Christ. The greatest sign of who He was, His power, and His authority is found in His resurrection. All that Christ did and said has meaning in the power of His resurrection. We as Christians need to know that our salvation and hope for resurrection is found in Christ's resurrection.