Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
(Matthew 21:12-17 ESV)
Today we study a very famous scene in the Bible in which Jesus entered the temple courts and drove our all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
We often think of Jesus as being a humble, loving man and He was. But in this scene He displays His anger. As we learned previously, being angry is not a sin as long as one’s anger is appropriately directed [Ephesians 4:26]. Here Jesus was angry because the outer courts of the Temple had been turned into a marketplace when God had intended it to be a house of prayer.
This was the Passover season when pilgrims came from all over the world to worship and offer sacrifices at the Temple. As a matter of convenience travelers would purchase sacrificial animals once they got to Jerusalem rather than purchase them at home and lugging them on their journey.
Therefore the Temple was stocked with animals to be purchased by these pilgrims – at mark-up prices, of course. Additionally, pagan coins – with the image of pagan kings and deities – were not accepted at the Temple. So pilgrims would have to exchange their foreign money for Temple currency – again for a price.
The Temple had been turned into a place where people pursued selfish profits rather than being a place where people could sincerely worship God. Providing these conveniences was not a bad thing. The problem was that it was all taking place in the temple not to mention that people, most of them poor, were being price gouged making the Temple a den of robbers.
This dishonest behavior was a bad witness to the glory of God and therefore prevented people from getting to know Him. In that uproar of buying and selling and bargaining and auctioneering prayer was impossible.
Just like the Temple the modern-day church is God’s house – where people go to meet with God. But just like 2,000 years ago some churches today seemingly don’t perform this function.
Unfortunately there are a lot of bad churches around nowadays. Some have jettisoned the true gospel for one that overlooks sin. Many have become entertainment centers with their jumbo videos screens, fantastic light displays, and fog machines. While these things may not be inherently bad, when they distract people from the true reason why we go to church – which, I’ll argue, they almost always do – then they are displeasing to God.
God wants sincere worshipers. He doesn’t want people who use His name for selfish reasons or those who prevent others from getting to know Him [Matthew 18:6]. If you’re going to church to be entertained or to make business contacts then you’re going to church for the wrong reasons. And, frankly, God would rather you weren’t there.
Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.