In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. (John 2:14 NLT)

Let’s set the context. There were three courts in the temple in Jerusalem. There was an inner court for only male Jewish worshipers. The next separated area was for Jewish women only. Finally, there was the outer court for all non-Jewish people, the Court of the Gentiles. It was in this outer court for the Gentiles that the animal merchants were now carrying on their business.

There were also money changers in this part of the temple. During the high feasts, Jews came from all over the Roman Empire. They had to pay a temple tax, paid with coins of the purest silver coming from Tyre. The moneychangers converted the money to the approved currency and charged a percentage for their service. This was big business. The animal merchants were there “because everyone offered a sacrifice for sins” and selling them there made it more “convenient.”

Imagine if you came to church on Sunday and found the parking lot and courtyard were a giant market. Imagine the noise, throngs, and general chaos. After wading through all of that, would you feel like worshiping God? The temple was supposed to be a place of worship, a place to meet God, a place where people could say, Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Psalm 95:6-7 ESV).

I don’t think this story is just about cleansing the temple. It is not about unfair and abusive business practices taking place. It is not just some isolated story about Jesus getting angry at what he found in the temple. The whole point of this story is to reveal Jesus’ identity and his mission. Jesus was the only one who could cleanse the temple. Only Jesus knows the heart of man. We can rationalize or be in denial about our sin just as the moneychangers and “religious” people were in the temple. Jesus’ very nature wouldn’t let him ignore wrongdoing in “his Father’s house” and he had no problem confronting the men doing it. This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18 ESV). Passion for God’s house and God’s glory consumed Jesus.

Father, help us never take for granted our freedom to worship and bring you glory.

Deb Hill

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