On Your Mark by Dr. George O. Wood
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. (Mark 11:15,16, NIV)
Following His triumphal entry into Jerusalem the previous day, Jesus entered the temple area and simply “looked around at everything” (v. 11). Now we know the reason why. Had He taken action then to purge the temple of the money changers, the crowd with Him would have pitched in and a riot would have ensued. Jesus did not want mob action to accomplish His purposes.
We know from John’s Gospel that Jesus first cleansed the temple of the merchandisers at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:13-22). Later His disciples remembered His statement at the time: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Now, three years later in this second cleansing of the temple, Jesus’ zeal remains undiminished.
How true it is that over time many go back to their old ways. Revivals come and then they ebb. Persons once “on fire” for the Lord seem passionless years later.
In the intervening three years, the temple had gone back to its old ways. The court of the Gentiles was massive, spreading out over the equivalent of almost 15 football fields in size. The merchandise was located on the south side — where pilgrims and worshippers entered following their ritual cleaning by immersion in the many mikvahs outside.
From all nations they came to worship God — Jew and Gentile alike. The sellers were not there to worship, but to profit. All money had to be exchanged for the special temple currency, the half-shekel tax. For the poor who could not afford a lamb, doves were sold to those wanting to sacrifice. The temple sellers were profit driven, not prophet driven.
The strength of Jesus’ personality is seen in that He stopped the whole vast enterprise single-handedly. He did not do it courteously, either. He did not give the money changers time to bag their currency. Instead, He overturned their tables, scattering coins everywhere.
While Jesus never struck a person, He did not have the same regard for property. He permitted demons to enter the swine at Gerasa (5:13), destroying a herd of 2,000 and all the income that went with it. He cursed a fig tree because it had no fruit (11:14). Here, He crippled the temple economy — at least for a day.
In His action, Jesus leaves an example for His followers. Those who serve in a leadership capacity must resist the temptation to see people as profit centers. We must be careful never to make money the main thing, but only use funds as the servant of ministry.
Jesus’ attitude toward “snake-charming” pulpit personalities who promise you riches if you’ll send them money would bring the same response from Him as His attack on the money changers. Such activity makes Him angry.
However, Jesus clearly did not condemn support for the temple, since He paid the half-shekel tax himself (Matthew 17:27), and approved the widow who gave all she had to the temple treasury (Luke 21:1-4). Rather, Jesus opposes solicitation of money for selfish enrichment, and He stands against all the abusive ways that may be employed to raise money for His cause.
A prayer of response
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God.
On Your Mark