Jesus gets Angry and Clears the Temple – A Walk Through Holy Week

When we think of Jesus we think of the mild-mannered teacher who healed people, calmed a storm, told stories, prophesied and later was executed for committing no crime. But there was one incident when Jesus got angry and cleared the temple.

The Jewish Temple

In Jerusalem, the Jewish temple was an important place. Pilgrims from all over the area would make their way there for the Passover festival (and others). They were required to sacrifice an animal – dove, goat or a lamb.

Jesus clears the temple

Since these people came from different areas, they had different forms of currency. Besides the merchants that sold the sacrificial animals, there were money-changers. These money-changers charged a very large amount to change the currency. The were taking advantage of the people who had to buy animals. It was commercialism to the extreme for that place and time. The system was designed for profit rather than worship.

When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

Mark 11:15-17

Dr. Jim Denison of Denison Forum, writes that there were 5 reasons that Jesus cleared the Temple:

One: Foreign coins had to be changed into local currency, which was the function of the kollybistes (the “money-changers” of Matthew 21:12). 

Two: Travelers would typically bring large denominations of money for ease of transport, which had to be converted into smaller coins. This was the function of the kermatistes, (the “money-changers” of John 2:14). 

Three: Travelers would also store money at the temple, a service rendered by the trapezites (the “money-changers” of Matthew 25:27). 

For the first two functions, the money-changers typically charged a premium of 4 to 8 percent; those acting as bankers paid interest at a fixed rate (though this was contrary to Jewish law; cf. Exodus 22:25). 

Four: Those who came to the temple were required to pay a tribute of “half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary” (Exodus 30:13). This currency was in use only at the temple. As a result, those who came to sacrifice had to exchange their currency for it. 

For each of these four functions, however, the money-changers were charging exorbitant rates. Since those who came to the temple had no other option, they were forced to pay them. 

Five: Animals used for sacrifice at the temple were required to be “without blemish” (cf. Exodus 12:5). Since raising such animals and then transporting them all the way to Jerusalem was difficult for most people, they chose to buy their sacrificial animal when they arrived. However, those who marketed such animals were charging unfair prices for them. 

Dr. Jim Denison

The Gospel of John’s Version

Jesus clears the temple

The clearing of the temple scene recounted in Mark, Luke and Matthew was actually the second time Jesus cleared the temple. John’s account happened earlier in Jesus’ ministry — right after the wedding in Cana. Where Matthew, Mark and Luke were focused on events, John interprets the meaning of what Jesus said and did…

It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”

Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.”

But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.”

“All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

“What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.

John 2:13-22

Bible Prophecy Coming True

I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem
    and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer.
I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices,
    because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Isaiah 56:7

Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see all the evil going on there. I, the Lord, have spoken!

Jeremiah 7:11

Jesus stayed in the temple area healing the blind and the lame (Matthew 21:14). That disturbed the leaders of the temple.

When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.

Mark 11:18

Here’s where it starts.

Dr. Denison tells us how Jesus’ clearing of the moneychangers teaches us 2 “profound principles” for our lives today.

First, our Lord knows our sins, whether others hold us accountable for them or not. 

The authorities allowed corruption by money-changers and perhaps profited from them personally (cf. Mark 11:18; Luke 16:14; Matthew 23:25). But Jesus saw their sin and responded proactively to it. He sees our “secret” sins just as clearly today (cf. Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:13). 

Second, our Lord is willing to forgive all we confess. 

Holy Monday was the second time Jesus had to cleanse the temple (cf. John 2:13–17). The corrupt merchants had been unwilling to repent, so he was forced to judge and punish them. By contrast, if we will admit the sins in our personal “temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16), he will cleanse us and forgive us. If we continue to seek his help, he will continue to give us victory. 

I encourage you to make time on this Holy Monday to get alone with Jesus. Ask him to bring to mind anything in your life that needs to be cleansed from your “temple,” then confess all that comes to your thoughts and claim his forgiving grace (1 John 1:9). Ask him to help you cleanse your “temple” often. 

I am convinced that one way our Lord wants to redeem the social distancing of these days is by using it to draw us closer to himself than ever before. 

Who are the money-changers in your temple today?

Dr. Jim Denison

Soli Deo Gloria — to God Alone be the Glory!

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