An Interesting Start

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the moneychangers at their business. And making a whip out of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and the oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
John 2:13-17

As we read, one of the first things that Jesus does after He enters into Jerusalem is go inside the Temple and drive out the vendors and moneychangers (Mt 21:12-17; Mk 11:15-19; Lk 19:45-48; Jn 2:13-25). We’ve heard the different accounts of this passage countless times. Jesus enters into the Temple and is infuriated by the sight of everyone buying and selling. He overturns the moneychangers tables and, making a whip out of cords, clears out the temple area saying that the moneychangers made it into a house of thieves. Jesus then welcomes the blind and the lame and heals them. The scribes seek to arrest Him, but they fear the crowds.

On the surface, Jesus’ reaction makes sense. There are animals and vendors inside the temple. This place is reserved for prayer and worship of God, not to buy or sell livestock. However, we also know that these vendors and moneychangers played a crucial role in the Passover celebration. People needed animals to make the appropriate sacrifice, and as people came from all over the known world, they needed to be able to standardize their currency to procure what they needed to fulfill their religious obligation. So if they are selling religious items, what’s Jesus’ problem?

The issue lies not in what they were selling, but where they were selling it. The temple is arranged in various courts with the Holy of Holies in the very center. Each of the other courts is reserved for different people. Priests, for instance, were allowed closer to the center to fulfill their duties while Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism all had their specific place where they were allowed to worship. The court in which the animal vendors and moneychangers had set up shop was the court reserved for the Gentiles and was therefore barring Gentiles from entering to worship. This placement was enforced by the Pharisees and priests and was an expression of their bigotry against the Gentiles whom they thought should not be allowed into the Jewish temple. In doing so, they treat God as their possession and do not allow others access to pray and worship.

What we should observe here is Jesus spending His last week on earth breaking down the barriers keeping the world from coming to the one true God. Israel was supposed to be a “light to the nations” (Is 49:6) but was failing in its duty. Jesus made it a part of his mission to restore that which had been broken and allow the world access to the Father.

So today, let us do two things. First, as we meditate on Jesus driving out the vendors and moneychangers, let us pray for the grace to see the places in our hearts from which we need to expel the lesser things of this world and to make more space for Christ. Also, let’s pray for the humility to recognize our shortcomings and prejudices against God and neighbor that keep us from worshiping and loving properly. Let’s begin holy week by casting out all that is not of God so we may fully participate in the magnificent tragedy and victory that is before us.

About the Author

Perry Rihl

I love Thai food, old books, and stupid puns. I'm married to a beautiful, patient, and holy woman and I live and work as a youth minister in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. God allows me to lead worship and retreats all over the place and you can follow me on Twitter @dprihl.

Want to write for Life Teen? Click Here to learn more.