Everything must go
With one perfect purchase, Jesus shed his blood on the cross and redeemed all of our failures, squaring with God for our sin.
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.
On the day after Jesus killed a tree by speaking to it, he enters the temple in Jerusalem and finds it bursting with energy. In Israel this was Independence Day, Super Bowl Sunday and Christmas all rolled into one.
For the leadership in Jerusalem, business was good. But Jesus’ message would de-leverage all of humanity, and bankrupt those who profit from selling tickets to heaven.
The disciples follow Jesus directly into the focal point of Israel’s national pride, the temple. Imagine being in a bustling outdoor market, and all of a sudden a fight breaks out in the crowd and you see an irate man throwing chairs and turning over tables. The only recorded time Jesus resorts to physical violence is when he finds people trading on God‘s Word. Buyers, sellers, socialites, brokers, groupies, all of them… spiritual pimps.
Jesus isn’t a tame God with pared claws and a domesticated attitude. The fact is, Satan doesn’t need to attack those whose worship is blissfully self-centered. Jesus himself will get violent, enter our temple, flip over over whatever is on our “valuables” table, and kick the chair out from underneath the things that are clouding the message of the gospel.
Notice that the text does not say Jesus “would not allow anyone to walk through the temple.” Rather, the only people moving through the temple were notably empty-handed. Before this, the only empty-handed people in the temple were the poor. Now, everyone in the temple had been stripped of their status.
The gospel begins with the invitation to daringly admit that we bring nothing of merit to our relationship with God.
Jesus is God’s Word in human flesh. So every time he asks, “Is it not written?” he is quoting himself, saying, “Haven’t I told you this before?” His contrast between prayer and robbery should make us stop.
God’s house was meant to be a place to ask for God’s beauty and perfection to fill the earth, but the people of God had hijacked this holy ground and were pimping it for their own profit. They had turned it into a flea market where people reinforced their status through “worship transactions” and displays of wealth.
Jesus’ voice had raised the dead, healed the sick, and brought death to a tree. But rather than resolving the temple situation verbally, Jesus showed up in a physically aggressive way to show that God had come to buy out the entire industry of temple commerce. With one perfect purchase, Jesus shed his blood on the cross and redeemed all of our failures, squaring with God for our sin.
Nice Rabbis don’t get nailed to crosses, but violent men do. This scene followed Jesus’ well-attended parade into the city and dramatically shifted the tone for his last week in Jerusalem. His punishment would happen so quickly that the cross would be unmistakably connected to this rumble in the temple.
At a time when everyone was looking for a revolution, hoping for John the Baptist’s revival to grow and spread, the people expected the Messiah to overthrow Rome. Instead Jesus plants his revolution in the center of Jewish spirituality. He attacks them.
Jesus was bad for business, and now the leaders in Jerusalem would kill him for it. But in doing so they would seal their own bankruptcy. What Jesus started in the temple would be finished on the cross.
Gospel-centered “business” with God means everything must go. On the cross, Jesus is the broker, the buyer and the seller, the creditor and the debtor—the only one with the capital to do business.
And we are the goods Jesus buys with his own blood.