Matthew 21:12. “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.”
With an abrupt change of pace, we are taken from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with palm branches and Hosannas! to His sudden eruption at the temple as He made a mess of the situation there.
It was already a mess, actually. In the house of God, there should have been no buying and selling, no profit-making. Temple worship had become an opportunity for those who took advantage of the situation to make a little more money, to become a little more wealthy.
“Welcome to the Temple, my friends! You’ve come a long way, you must be tired. Here, sit down, take a load off your feet! What is it you need today? Ah, yes, of course you must pay your annual tribute, and we can help you with that. Is there anything esle? Do you have the appropriate offerings? See, here we have beautiful doves for sale at rock bottom prices. But wait! Buy two now and we’ll give you a third one FREE! Don’t wait! This bargain is only for today!”
By the way, there is no mention of Jesus using a whip in this passage. You will find mention of that in John 2:12, describing this same incident.
These Temple markets, history tell us, were controlled and owned by the sons of Annas, the high priest. It was a profit-making venture for them.
Why were the moneychangers there? Every year, every Jew had to pay a tribute on March 15. The tribute was a half shekel, which would be about 35 cents in our money. Not a lot, we may think, but it was very difficult for some of the people to find this money every year. The moneychangers were there to exchange Jewish coins for foreign coins for those who came to the feast. Foreign coins with idols imprinted on them could not be used in the worship. Many took advantage of this opportunity to practice fraud and get rich.
The doves, as well as other live animals, were there to be sold to those who came without their own live offerings. Exorbitant prices could be charged because the people had nowhere else to go for their sacrifices.
The entire situation was a desecration, a travesty of what should have been taking place.
Sometimes I wonder about all the things I see in churches today. A cafe, for instance, is not intrinsically evil. I just can’t help but wonder if we have lost sight of what the church’s ministry is in our efforts to draw people in with the offer of fancy coffee drinks and so on. So many times I think of Jesus saying, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me” (John 12:32). If lifting up Jesus can’t be effective without a cup of coffee and a doughnut, then are we any better than the moneychangers and sellers of animals in the Temple? I have a hard time believing that God intended for His house to be a place of business.
I know such a statement won’t make me popular. That’s ok. I believe we need to think about what we’re doing to God’s house! The Bible is not a book about church marketing. It is a book about God. It is a book about love, mercy, grace, sin, and salvation.
That should be enough.