Monday. The Triumphal Entry is behind Him. The Cross is five days before Him. Passover is near, and Jerusalem is full of pilgrims. The chief priests are plotting to kill Him, and everywhere He goes a crowd gathers. So Jesus does the complete opposite of what most of would do in that situation: He goes to the center of Jerusalem during a Feast. He goes to the Temple. (See Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:12-18, and Luke 19: 45-47)
That in itself is astonishing to me. I run from conflict most days. Especially if someone is plotting to kill me. Jesus, “for the joy set before Him” (see Hebrews 12:2) went straight into the lion’s den. He didn’t back down. In fact, He throws gas on the fire.
Upon arriving in the Temple, Jesus finds it full of people buying and selling sacrifices for the Feast. Basically, there was a whole industry that had sprung up around the Temple that centered on “acceptable” sacrifices for the people. Say you were coming in from way up north in Israel, near Lebanon, and you were bringing your sacrificial lamb with you. Well, that lamb that was to be “a lamb without blemish” would be in pretty bad shape after the journey. The “inspectors” would inform you it wouldn’t do, and then pull the ol’ bait and switch on you: “But look what we have over here! A perfect, spotless lamb! Only $19.95!” Well, maybe they didn’t say that, but you get the point. They even had “moneychangers” who could exchange your local currency for Temple currency. The priests were abusing the people, and the people could do nothing about it.
So here is Jesus, standing in the midst of this holy place that resembled a stockyard/shopping mall, and we see a side of Him we haven’t seen before. He gets angry. He begins to turn over the moneychangers’ tables, throwing open the animal cages, and drawing quite a lot of attention to Himself. John tells us that Jesus even made a whip to drive them out of the Temple with (John 2:15). He yells that “My house shall be a house of prayer! But you have made it a den of thieves!” He was not pleased, to say the least. Later, the disciples would remember this moment and recall the Old Testament prophecy that “zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” (John 2:17) This was not exactly the thing to do if you were trying to avoid the attention of the priests and scribes.
But Jesus was now on the path to Calvary. He was fulfilling His mission. And one of His missions was to set aright the worship of God. He didn’t come to abolish the laws (though the Pharisees feared that’s what He was doing). No, He came to fulfill them! The very lambs that they were selling in the temple were types of Christ! They foretold the Lamb Who would take away the sins of the world! In the midst of the chaos that must have ensued from His cleansing of the Temple, Jesus stood as the perfect Lamb, the ONLY sacrifice that could atone for our sins. Jesus was angry because the people in charge had perverted the worship of His Father. Jesus was angry because they were taking advantage of the poor and the weak. Heck, they were taking advantage of EVERYONE!
And instead of repenting, instead of stopping and realizing that He was right, instead of thinking about what He said, they grow more resolute in their intentions to get rid of Jesus.
Which got me to thinking…
What tables is Jesus turning over in my life? What have I set up in the “temple” that is my heart, instead of the Lamb of God Who belongs on the throne therein? What lies am I selling myself? My family? My friends? What am I trusting in instead of the One Whom trust is due?What am I trying to do to atone for my own sins, instead of simply trusting in the Sacrifice of Christ?
Lord, lay bare the intentions and workings of our hearts, that we would see our true motivations, our true reasons for doing what we do. And grant that we would seek You and You alone. Turn our tables, Lord.