Tuesday, March 20, 2007



At the end of Luke 19 we come to a familiar and often referenced scene where Jesus drives out the money-changers who were doing business in the Temple. This is commonly known as a act of righteous indignation.

When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.' "

Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

Jesus is quoting Isaiah and Jeremiah here. Luke only touches on this cleansing of the Temple; the other Gospels offer more detail. The cleansing of the Temple was most likely just prior to the last week of Jesus’ ministry.

Why was Jesus so angry and irritated with what was going on at the Temple? Let me give you just a couple of practices that many have found to be reprehensible. First, when people came in from out of the area, they had to exchange their coinage. Most had Roman coins, but at the Temple only Tyronian shekels could be used to pay for their sacrifice. So, there was a money-changing business going on where people were being gouged, paying unreasonable fees for this exchange. Second, the lamb that was to be sacrificed was to be certified by a rabbi. The rabbi would frequently disallow the lamb, because it was to be a lamb without blemish. So, if the lamb they brought was not good enough, then they had to buy another lamb that would pass the test. Guess who had that concession? And, at the sale of this new lamb there was another exorbitant fee. You see, there was a hierarchy of priests who were getting a piece of the action in every transaction.

Rabbi Simeon, who was Gamaliel’s son (Gamaliel was Paul’s teacher) was insistent that the prices be lowered in the Temple for the sacrificial animals sold there. He urged them to reduce the price for a pair of doves by 99% of the going rate. Did you get that markup? A 99% markup! This is why Jesus called these businessmen in the Temple a den or cave of thieves. The whole thing was out of control and was a travesty—all in the name of the Lord.

NOTE there were several groups who were against Jesus and wanted to put Him to death. You see, in one of the most lucrative holiday feasts of the year—Passover—Jesus was ruining their business. These groups that united against Jesus were usually enemies of one another—chief priests, teachers (Pharisees), scribes, and community leaders.

Do you see anything today at the Temple that might make Jesus irritated and angry?

Jesus’ enemies were willing to do most anything to get rid of Him, even to the point of killing Him. There was only one thing holding them back—the people. You know, it’s been my experience that the people are the best and most supportive. It’s the leadership that continually stands in the way of the work of God.

I like the last statement in this chapter. It gives the reason for why the people became a problem. They hung on the words of Jesus. What an indictment! This is at the core of the spiritual revolution of Jesus today. What we are looking for is for people to be hung up on the teachings and principles of Jesus. Now, that’s a hang-up from which I hope I never do recover! How about you?