When Jesus came into Jerusalem in Matthew 21, he came with humility and meekness riding on a donkey. If you’ve grown up in the church or been around long enough you may know that this goes back to a prophecy about the coming Messiah in Zechariah 9:9. The people who walked with Jesus on this journey and shouted their “Hosannas” were looking for a King and a Savior to set them free from Roman oppression.
But instead of beginning a revolution and going to take on the Pilate or other Roman officials- Jesus does something that would have been unexpected. He goes to the temple- the center of the Jewish way of life. He goes to the temple and begins to “cleanse” it by turning over tables and and driving those out who were changing money and selling doves. Jesus says,
“It is written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'” Matthew 21:13
The function of the temple was to be a place where people could come and prayer and encounter the presence of the living God. They came to have their sins forgiven- But instead the commerce was taking place in the out courts where women and Gentiles were to worship- but instead a market had been set up- keeping many who came to worship from actually worshipping. Because of this- God is being robbed of the worship and praise that God is worthy and deserving of. By driving out the money changers- Jesus is driving out the evil that has become a part of the every day experience at the temple. Jesus cleanses the temple to restore it back to it’s intended purpose- to welcome all people to the temple in order to pray and encounter God.
Here is what caught my eye and surprised me- not because I had never read it before- but because I was seeing it with fresh eyes. In verse 14- the blind and the lame came to Jesus in the temple- and Jesus healed him. Immediately after this “cleansing” those who had been excluded come and encounter the power of God through Jesus. Even the children are in the temple courts shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.”
When we allow Jesus to cleanse our lives- to drive out the evil and the sin- we can then participate in the ministry that God has called us to. Our churches- when we examine our practices to ensure that our worship and ministries are about the worship of God rather than fulfilling our own desires- then we will see the lame healed and the sight of the blind restored.
Jesus didn’t come to begin a political or military revolution. He went straight for the heart of the Jewish religious tradition and drove out the evil that had crept in. We must recognize that God desires to drive the evil and sin out of our own lives so that we might walk in God’s presence every day.