Since we are 2000 yrs. removed from the time, we have difficulty (I believe) understanding the concept of temple worship and the strong connection between Judaism and the temple. I mean, in our society we have do have the Mormons with their temples which they build nationwide; in that sense we might gain some appreciation of temple worship…if of course we are Mormon. If not, the notion is still somewhat vague and perhaps mysterious.
But to Jesus it is clear that he has very strong feelings about the temple of God – and as well he should! This was the place of worship of Jehovah God, the Almighty Sovereign of the universe. It was a place of consecration, dedication, sanctification. It was holy ground. So when Jesus comes on the scene and sees this place of consecration turned into a place of desecration, it should not surpirse to see he goes berserk.
The Purification by Jesus
We last left Jesus near Jerusalem. In v.45 he enters the temple, thereby putting him Jerusalem since the temple is in Jerusalem. The first thing he does is starts whipping tail and taking names. Here is righteous indignation Jesus, furious at the way man is treating the sanctuary of God. Its become a common thing, not a holy thing. Its just business as usual…until Jesus shows up. Now’s the time of reckoning. He starts driving out “those who sold” – that is those who exchanged currency (for the temple had its own currrency, sort of like amusement parks or arcades only take certain coinage/money) and those selling sacrificial animals (those which are brought from outside were usually found with blemish). Jesus explains his actions in v.46: “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers” (ESV). He quotes Scriputre as to why he is doing what he is doing. The people have not learned anything and are repeating the same grave error that their forefathers committed (Jer 7.11). This was the dwelling place of God and they have defiled it. Hence, it is needful for Jesus to purify it and correct these errors.
Indeed, we are in need of a cleansing of the temple ourselves. Though we do not have a temple building, we are the temple of God (1 Cor 3.16-17). And that temple is to be holy. It should be a “house of prayer.” Yet how often do we rob it of its dignity, integrity, and glory by engaging in secret and public sin. If you are a Christian, Jesus has entered the temple (your body, see Eph 3.17). What has he found in you?
The Plot against Jesus
Here is the dillema for the religious leaders: they are furious against Jesus and want to “destroy him” (that is, rub out his life) but even though he is “daily in the temple” teaching the people, they are powerless to do anything for the people love him. But these men are active in their search to kill Jesus and they will continue to work to find an opportune time to catch him (more on this in the coming chs.). In the meantime, Jesus is enjoying a time of popularity as the people “were hanging on his words” (lit. hanging on his lips). Despite the depth of his doctrine, the height of his purpose, the strength and straightforwardness of his charge, the people love him and are themselves daily in the temple.
We see the earnestness of these people as they clamor for the Word of God. What a striking contrast we make when we compare our own appetite for the Word. Many of us are starving to death spiritually because we do not hang on the lips of Jesus. We do not hunger and thirst after righteousness and therefore we are never filled, though ever starving!