On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as He taught them, He said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers.”
The chief priests and teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill Him, for they feared Him, because the whole crowd was amazed at His teaching. —Mark 11:15-18
So much for the ‘Jesus- meek-and-mild’ caricature.
It is safe to assume that given the type of work Jesus did as a carpenter, He would have been quite muscular and strong. It is highly doutbtful that Jesus would have been the rather wan-looking, pale, skinny man so often represented in some of the Jesus movies of recent years. His hands would have been calloused and strong, His skin darkened by the sun.
We are told that several times that He spoke with great authority. His very presence must have radiated strength and resolute purpose.
Clearly, this was a stunningly bold act.
Why did He do it?
God was being grossly dishonored and the people who had come to the temple to worship Him were being exploited and oppressed.
In his book The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, John MacArthur explains:
“Jerusalem was jammed with pilgrims, not only from all over the land of Israel, but also from Jewish communities throughout the Roman world…Of course, merchants throughout the city profited immensely from the revenue that came in from pilgrims during the holidays. The temple priests even had their own extremely profitable franchise set up right there on the temple grounds.
A portion of the massive outer court (known as the court of the Gentiles) had been turned into a bustling bazaar, filled with animal merchants and money changers. With multitudes coming to celebrate Passover…it was impossible for some of them to bring their own oxen, lambs, or doves for sacrifice.
Furthermore…sacrificial animals had to be flawless. Priests would therefore carefully inspect every animal…and if they found a defect, they would pronounce the animal unsuitable….So, the temple merchants sold preapproved animals—but at a very dear premium.
“The money changers’ tables were likewise supposed to be a service for pilgrims and worshipers, because offerings to the temple had to be made with Jewish coins…they charged an exorbitant interest rate for their services…under Old Testament law, Jews were not permitted to charge interest to their own countrymen…so the fact that this was being done with the offerings of worshipers, on the temple grounds, under the temple authorities’ oversight and with their encouragement, was positively evil…the temple authorities were exploiting the very people they should have been ministering to.”
(In addition)…”it’s not hard to imagine what all this activity did to the ambience of the temple grounds…it was a hive of noise, dissonance, filth, and pandemonium. It was certainly no atmosphere for worship.” (pp. 34-36)
This is what greeted Jesus when He walked into the temple.
These people didn’t even set up their crooked schemes in front of the temple grounds…they chose to set everything up inside the temple doors! They did not care anything about God. Profit was their bottom line and they were shameless in their pursuit of it.
The temple was to be a place of refuge, safety, and beauty where one could freely worship God…and that day, it was none of those things. Those in authority were making it very difficult for the people to get to their God and that was inexcusable. There was a total lack of disregard for both God and His people.
Jesus would carefully and methodically have made a whip of small cords that was a harmless tool used for driving large animals. Such a whip did not inflict pain; it was a mild means of driving them from one place to another. There is no mention that He inflicted any physical injury on anyone. Jesus must have driven the animals out of the courtyard, which meant their owners were also forced to leave the area to chase after them.
“Jesus’ decisiveness and power were impressive and must have been incredibly intimidating. His anger is evident; His zeal is grand and imposing; and the force of divine authority in His words is unmistakable…There must have been great tumult all around, but in the midst of it, Jesus appears unruffled–fierce in His anger, perhaps, but resolute, single-minded, stoic, and wholly composed. He is the very picture of self-control. This is truly righteous indignation, not a violent temper that has gotten out of hand…(His) is a zealous fury that is not the selfish pique of someone who has suffered a personal insult. Instead, it is a deep outrage that comes from the realization that GOD is being dishonored…Jesus was moved by righteous indignation—springing from the purest motives of a chaste and virtuous heart.” (pp.38-38).
When one reads through the Gospels, an unmistakable fact emerges: Jesus made Himself available to anyone who was truly seeking Him. He is a God of relationship and His arms and heart were open to all.
So, when He saw that people were being hindered from coming to their God by the very people that should have been helping them, something had to be done.
His passion and zeal are breathtaking.
It is not…and never has been…difficult to get to Jesus.
Humbling? Yes…incredibly so.
Simple? Yes…beautifully so.
Costly? Oh yes…within days, it would cost Jesus absolutely everything to open the door to His Presence eternally for all who would choose to come.
That momentous moment was fast approaching…