The Cleansing of the Temple
Driving out all who bought and sold
The cleansing of the temple is a proof of an authority that was exercised by Christ on that day. An authority that no one was able to contest, or stop Him. He cleansed the temple with complete authority, with strength and firmness:
- “drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple” (Mt 21:12)
- “and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves” (Mt 21:12)
- He told the people, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ bu you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Mt 21:13)
- And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. (Mr 11:16)
- And as St. John says in an earlier place, “He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’” (Jn 2:15,16)
This shows us that Christ who is meek, was also firm. This event shows us how Christ had a perfect and balanced personality, which combined all the virtues together. For, He being gentle and lowly in heart (Mt 11:29) can become very firm when the circumstances call for it, as it happened on that day… He was firm in a way that they have never seen before, and His firmness was combined with teaching, as He said, “It is written ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer.’” This way He corrected what was wrong.
The temple had to be cleansed, for it is the House of God, and it has its own sanctity; and this sanctity must be preserved. And the holy zeal moves us to that. It is good that Christ gave us an example in this situation. This is why the bible says after the cleansing of the temple, “Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’” (Jn 2:17)
God was very patient on those who defiled the temple. When they did not use God’s patience to repent and correct their ways, God had to deal with them in a different way. When dealing with any person, God is willing to do anything to correct them. He is willing to use the nice word, and He is also willing to use the whip, even if only for threatening, not for whipping. Both ways are possible, so which one would you choose to correct yourself? If you are a sensitive person, and your heart reproaches you from a spiritual word that you hear or read, or from an event, then God will say that that is enough for you. But if you don’t head the gentle word from God, He will still care enough for your salvation that He might use the whip: a sickness, some troubles, or any kind of tribulations… there are many methods, and God will pick the one that will work for you, like a doctor who might first try pills and if that doesn’t work he will resort to surgery.
Christ, not only cleansed the temple, but He also warned them about the destruction of that temple, and the destruction of Jerusalem. He wept for Jerusalem and said, “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Lk 19:43,44) He also said, “See! Your house is left to you desolate.” (Mt 23:38) He also told His disciples openly that not one stone shall be left upon another (Mt 24:2) He also said, “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing in the holy place then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” (Mt 24:15,16)
My blessed child, during the holy week, when you hear that Christ cleansed the temple and warned of its destruction, cry then and say, “Come Lord, and cleanse my temple too.” Aren’t we too temples of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in us? (1 Co 3:16) Come then Lord and cleanse my temple, turn over all the tables in it before they make me loose my eternity. Don’t let any lust or anger be in my heart, but purge me with hyssop. Cleanse me quickly before the destruction of my temple.
Cleansing the temple of the religious leaders
Christ did not only cleanse the temple from those who sold and bought, but He also cleansed it from the religious leaders who did not keep its sanctity.
To understand this, we have to follow the Master from when He cleansed the temple. What did the leaders do? They could not stop Christ or prevent Him from doing what He was doing, but “the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him” (Mk 11:18; Lk 19:47) Only their fear of the people stopped them, so they waited for the right moment to kill Him, and at the time all they did was ask Him, “By what authority are You doing these things?” (Mt 21:32; Lk 20:2) And He did not give them an answer, but rather asked them a question about John the Baptist, and they were silent.
Christ was about to select leaders for His church, so it was natural to move those old leaders who did not understand the kingdom of God in a spiritual way, and who did not live a spiritual life, but leading the people astray. Those leaders who had agreed that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue. This way they became a stumbling block in the way to the kingdom of heaven. This is why those leaders had to be changed. God had dealt with all of them, the Scribes, the Pharisees, and Sadducees, the Lawyers, the Priests, and the Chief Priests… He dealt with them with great patience for a long time, but now the time was short, and there are only few days before the day of Golgotha.
The Jewish priesthood had to be changed for two reasons: first, because Christianity will be founded on a new kind of priesthood, on the order of Melchizedek (Heb 7) which is different than the priesthood of Aaron which uses the animal sacrifices which were only a symbol to the sacrifice of Christ.
Second, the Jewish priesthood had to be changed because they practiced it in a wrong way, and they had to be judged for their wrongdoings so that they don’t lead the people astray. That’s why Christ told them the parable of the bad vinedressers, and He concluded that parable by saying, “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.” (Mt 21:43) He showed them that their rejection for Him will hurt and crush them, and He referred them to the Psalm, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.” Then He warned them that their enmity for Him will only destroy them by saying, “whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Mt 21:42-44) But they did not repent, and they did not benefit from His warning, but the bible says that after they heard Christ’s warning, “they sought to lay hands on Him.” (Mt 21:46)
Christ also destroyed all the idols that were present in His time to protect His disciples from them before He puts His soul in the hands of His Father. He reproached the Pharisees. He had never done that before, He always used to talk to them and argue with them to teach them. But they never wanted to learn. Even during this week after cleansing the temple, “the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk.” (Mt 21:15) But He responded to them in every conversation, and reproached them, especially after He asked them about the relation between Christ and David, if He is His Son or His God, “And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.” (Mt 22:46)
Christ reproached them strongly and said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Mt 23) and this was only two days before Passover (Mt 26:2) He wanted to expose them before His crucifixion so that they don’t have any effect on the people after that, He told them that they are blind leaders, and that they teach the people false teachings, and that they like the first places, and compliments from people, and that they put heavy burdens on people. He warned them from the judgment that is coming on them, and He said that they closed the way to the kingdom of heaven so they did not enter and they did not let those who want to enter enter. (Mt 23:13-35)
It was a revolution led by Christ before His crucifixion against the graves painted from the outside. As He reproached the scribes and the Pharisees, He also rendered the Sadducees and the lawyers speechless. The Sadducees did not believe in spirits, angels, or resurrection of the dead… but they were still a prominent class of the people, and from them were the chief priests. During that week they asked Christ about the resurrection and a woman who had seven husbands, one after the death of the other. He answered them in a way that made them speechless, “after that they dared not question Him anymore.” (Lk 20:40)
When He was talking about all the woes that will come over the scribes and the Pharisees, the lawyers said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things you reproach us also.” (Lk 11:45) He responded to them saying, “Woe to you also, lawyers!” and He gave them the same woes and the same kind of judgment. They were all a group of false teachers, that had to be removed to give place to the disciples of Christ.
This was the cleansing movement that was lead by Christ. He did not leave this task to His disciples, as this would have been too much for them, but He did it Himself. He did not worry about all their conspiracy against Him as this was the reason for His coming, and He did not keep those leaders as you cannot put a piece of a new cloth on an old garment. This way in the church of Christ disappeared all these classes, and Christ paid the price of this cleansing, He suffered so that we may have rest, and for us he bore the wickedness of the evil people.
And you, you should ask yourself:
- Am I one of the bad vinedressers, or is my service accepted?
- Am I one of those who resist Christ, Does my ego stand in the way between Christ and me?
- Do I put heavy burdens on the people?
- Do I work with Christ to purify and cleanse my temple, or work against Him like those from whom the kingdom of heaven was taken?
In the cleansing of the temple, we should ask God also to cleanse every place upon which His holy name is called… and let us sing with Christ and say: “My house is called a house of prayer.”