Matthew 21:12-17; Just Another Day in the Temple

The action comes quickly. After entering Jerusalem, acclaimed by his traveling companions (but mostly unknown to Jerusalem), Jesus proceeds to the temple.

There he performed another symbolic action in the tradition of the prophets. Like Jeremiah breaking pottery and Ezekiel sneaking out by digging a hole in the wall of his house, Jesus attacks the sellers and buyers in the temple precincts, and the moneychangers who facilitated the payment of the temple tax. Special mention is made of the dove sellers. Probably a majority of sacrifices in the temple consisted of doves, the sacrifice of the poor.

Jesus quotes from Isaiah 56 and says the temple is supposed to be a house of prayer, a place where people can come into contact with God. And he quotes from Jeremiah 7 and implies that the house of God is the hideout of unsavory people who make gain on the backs of others.

Overall, though, Jesus does not seem to be upset at the business practices, tut the location of the businesses.

Surely business was not disrupted for very long. There is no mention of any of the priestly leaders noticing what happened, and Jesus does not appear to have hidden himself away.

In fact, he begins healing those who come to him in the temple, most likely in same public area of the temple where the moneychangers did their business. The lame and the blind represent the unprivileged people of Israel. Healing them allows them to experience the temple truly as a house of prayer.

The children around Jesus continue to repeat what they heard on the road from Bethphage to Jerusalem. Whether or not they knew what they were doing, they acclaimed Jesus as messiah and asked him to save them.

This, somehow, gets the attention of some of the priestly leaders and they expect Jesus to deny what the children are saying, but Jesus answers (using words from Psalm 118), “Out of the mouths of babes …”

Thus endeth the first day of the last week. Jesus and the disciples went out to Bethany, where they no doubt set up their camp for the week of activities.

There are some questions we should probably ask ourselves.

  • What does church represent for us? Is it an occasion to meet God, or is it just a place of security and comfort?
  • How much has the secular invaded our churches?
  • Like Jesus, are we able to point to both judgment and to grace?

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