The Book of Luke, The Cleansing of the Temple - Lesson 208
Luke 19:45-48, And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. 47And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, 48And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.
Prior to this event, which took place on Monday of the week of Christ’s Passion, Jesus had entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.
This Messiah-like entrance of Jesus, foretold by the prophet Zechariah , stirred the city of Jerusalem but as we see in this passage it did not disturb "business as usual" in the temple.
By the means of entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, while receiving praise and worship from the disciples and others, Jesus not only declared himself to be Israel’s Messiah but it was also a clear declaration of His deity.
And as deity, He was the Lord of Israel and as the Lord of Israel we see His rights as Lord demonstrated in these verses relating to the temple.
We have seen clearly in his calling for the two animals, the exercise of his right of ownership, for deity who is the Creator of all things has the right to possess that which men call their own.
He has acknowledged His right to receive the worship and the praise of men by rebuking the pleas of the Pharisees to tell his disciples to stop praising Him.
That if they ceased praising Him the stones would cry out in praise and adoration.
And as the Lord of Israel He has the right to attack the false religion of that day.
All of these rights are the rights of the One who was not only Israel’s Messiah, but also Her God for these rights are fully the prerogatives of God.
The Gospels report two temple cleansings.
The first cleansing reported in the Gospel of John, also during the Passover celebration, occurred early in Christ’s public ministry, while this one reported by Luke occurs just a few days before Christ’s crucifixion.
The Gospel of Mark indicates that the Lord entered into the temple late Sunday afternoon after His Jerusalem entry, looked around the temple, then returned to Bethany to spend the night in the home of His friends.
His Sunday evening survey trip revealed a temple which again needed cleansing.
This cleansing, which took place on Monday, is more detailed in the Gospel of Mark than it is in the Gospel of Luke and can be found in Mark, chapter 11 verses 15-18,
And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. 18And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.
So we are given that business as usual continues in the temple regardless of the fact that the Messiah has entered Jerusalem.
Chaos reigns in the temple court for the business of commerce reigns.
As Jesus enters the Court of the Gentiles He sees what he saw at the beginning of His ministry, desecration of the temple court.
His eyes are disappointed, his ears hear the sounds of animals and even his nose can smell the odors of animal refuse.
He sees not a house of prayer, but a busy market place committed to the purpose of making money.
A place where business is booming and prayer and meditation cannot be conducted because of the chaos.
If it was as reported in the first temple cleansing some men even continue to sell sheep and oxen in the temple court.
This is the time of the Passover and to find a comparison of this activity in modern times think about having a prayer meeting service in the middle of a Wal-Mart just several days before Christmas.
This is the time when Jerusalem is most populated with pilgrims but especially pilgrims who are buyers of the goods that are being peddled in the temple court.
Certainly they can bring their own animals for sacrifice but an animal purchased from vendors approved by the high priest will never be turned down for sacrifice, while one brought from home has a good chance of not being accepted for it will not have the high priest stamp of approval.
Those concessions that were purchased from the temple authorities did not come cheap for the tradesmen and the priests were partners in this business.
No doubt some of the money paid by the vendors found its way into the pockets of the high priest.
So this is the setting that Jesus Christ finds again as he visits the Temple for the last time before his death.
Let me read about this setting as described in Barclay’s Commentary on The Gospel of Luke
"Why did Jesus, Who was the very incarnation of love, act with such violence to the money changers, and the sellers of animals in the temple courts? First, let us look at the money changers. Every male Jew had to pay a temple tax every year of a half a shekel. That was equal to about 1s. 2d. or 17 cents, but in evaluating this, it must be remembered that this was equal to two days pay for a working man. A month before the Passover, booths were set up in all the towns and villages, and the money could be paid there. But by far the greater part of the tax was actually paid by the pilgrims in Jerusalem when they came to the Passover feast. In Palestine all kinds of currencies were in circulation: Greek, Roman, Tyrian, Syrian, Egyptian, and all were equally valid. But this special tax had to be paid in exact half-shekels of the Sanctuary or in ordinary Galilaean shekels. This is where the money changers made their fortune. To change a coin of exact value, they charged one maan, which is equal to 2d. If a larger coin were tendered, a charge of one maan was made for the requisite half-shekel, and of another for the giving of change. It has been computed that these money changers made a profit of between 8000 and 9000 pounds ($26,000) per year. Let us look at the sellers of animals. Sacrifices could be bought outside at very reasonable prices, but the temple authorities had appointed inspectors, for the law required that sacrificed animals should be without spot and blemish. It was therefore far safer to buy victims from the booths officially set up in the Temple. (These had already been certified as acceptable). But there were times when a pair a doves cost as much as fifteen shillings, ($2.20) inside the Temple, and considerably less than one shilling (15c)outside. These Temple shops were known as The Booths of Annas, and were the property of the High Priest. Annas was delighted to gloat over Jesus who had struck such a blow at his evil monopoly. Jesus cleansed the temple with such violence because the Temple traffic was being used to exploit helpless men and women. It was the passion for social justice which burned in Jesus’ heart when He took this drastic step."
So what takes place at the temple court is part of the "place" that the Pharisees so coveted and did not want to lose to this one whom they called a false Messiah who had already once upset this lucrative business.
The Apostle Paul told the Ephesians in chapter 4, verse 26 26Be ye angry, and sin not:
Now if you want to know what to be angry about while not sinning this is an example given to us as to what angered Jesus Christ.
For we know Him who is sinless was angry because of what he saw in the temple court.
This was indeed righteous indignation that welled up in our Lord Jesus as he drove all of these merchants out of the temple court.
And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; 46Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.
Jesus Christ saw those that sold and those that bought in the same light.
Both were making His house a den of thieves instead of its true intention, that of a house of prayer.
Recall the Gospel writer, Mark identified the Temple’s purpose even more fully for he called it a house of prayer for all nations.
This purpose of the temple was early identified by Isaiah in chapter 56:7b, for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
It was to be a quiet place for devotion, prayer and meditation.
Jesus then calls the temple a den of thieves which is a quote from the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 7 verse 11, Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?
There is nothing new under the sun for as in the days of Jeremiah the temple was being misused so too it was being misused in Jesus day.
Jeremiah condemned the Jews in his day for oppressing strangers, stealing, and murdering while continuing to offer their sacrifices in the temple in a formalistic way.
This was an abomination in the nostrils of God.
History repeats itself in Christ’s day and history repeats itself in our day where worship has been transformed into pure commercialism whereby church goers seek to say "What’s in it for me if I come to your church?"
What’s my profit? rather than coming to bring praise and worship to God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Entertainment is the product that is for sale today.
Instead of the stench of the animals it is the stench of the world’s music and the world’s entertainers and preaching that is designed to simply tickle the ears of the hearers.
It is anything but praise and adoration of God.
And if Jesus came into many of our churches he would do the same things as he did in the temple for he would cast out the purveyors of all that offends Him.
He would not be the sweet Jesus preached in those compromising churches but he would be the angry Jesus, the Jesus that cast the money changers and the sellers of animals out of the temple.
The Jews expected the Messiah to wage war on Rome and on its rule but this Messiah did not do so but instead waged war on the Jewish religious system.
As we have studied week after week Jesus renounced the religion of the Jews directly to the faces of the Pharisees.
Because of this His demise at the hands of the religious leaders was certain, for he pushed all their buttons and pushing their buttons yielded the expected results.
They had no freedom to do otherwise for they were sinners ruled by their nature.
That is the nature of sinners, for they are ruled by sin.
Only a sinner redeemed by the blood of Christ can do otherwise.
For a redeemed sinner is delivered from the bondage of corruption and has the liberty not to be ruled by his sin nature.
As the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:21, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
The result that Christ looked for came about as expected for the chief priest and the Pharisees could do nothing else than protect that which catered to their nature.
And that was to put to death anyone who threatened their place.
Remember earlier in Christ’s ministry the conspiracy that was hatched by the chief priests and the Pharisees.
From John 11:47-53, When gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 49And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. 53Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
So this second stopping of the booming temple business on the part of Christ was simply the last straw which sealed his doom in the minds of the chief priest and the Pharisees.
If you want to get anyone riled to the point of madness just mess with his or her money.
Jesus knew that that was the button of all buttons for where their treasure was he also found their heart.
47And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, 48And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.
This daily teaching did not continue for long for this was the Monday of the week of his crucifixion.
But for a short time, at least, the temple would serve its original purpose.
But soon the words of Christ would be fulfilled and that very temple that Jesus cleansed would be destroyed.
God was going to see to it, not only that the old temple was torn down, but that a new temple was created, a temple not made with hands, a temple where there was no distinction between Jews and Gentiles.
Ephesians 2:11-22, 11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
I Cor. 3:16, Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
So the destruction of the temple made with hands in 70 A. D. occurred because that temple was no longer necessary for God, though Jesus Christ, now dwells in living temples, which temple ye are if you are in Christ.