By Daniel H. King
Many years ago, a lone Galilean visited the city of Jerusalem. He probably went altogether unnoticed as He tramped His way down the dusty streets through the hordes of humanity that thronged its boulevards and alleys and open-air markets during the religious holidays. And this was Passover, a time when pilgrims numbering considerably more than its approximately 25,000 inhabitants packed into the ancient town. They brought with them their money-money that would be spent on the rites of their religion as well as the other things that sight-seers and vacationers waste their wealth for when they surmise that this may be their only visit to a particular alignment place. Of course, the opportunists were there waiting for them, ready to prey upon their religiosity and good intentions. In fact, the religious leaders saw no harm in their presence. They had even allowed them to ply their trade in the Temple itself-the house of worship and prayer.
The man called Jesus, a carpenter from Nazareth, finally made His way to the great white mountain that monopolized the rough Palestinian landscape and entered its porticoed, colonnaded and gilded environs. This was the Temple of Herod. Its sheer majesty made it one of the colossal wonders of the world at that time.
A long flight of steps brought him into the first of several enclosures, the so-called “Court of the Gentiles.” The “Women’s Court,” the “Court of Israel,” and the “Priest’s Court” all lay beyond His view. All of the sacred acts of worship took place deep within these “Inner Sancta.” Nine gates guarded those regions from the view of any who desired to know their secrets. A sign at the first gate warned that none but a Jew could pass beyond it or death would be the consequence.
However, what caught the eye and ear of the Galilean as He entered was a most obtrusive uproar and sights that one should not expect in so sacred a place. Especially since this was the only court into which the foreigner could enter! For therein were arranged the booths and tables of the merchants who sold the sacrificial animals and those who exchanged the foreign currency for the Tyrian coinage which alone was acceptable tender here. The noise resembled the cacophony that ascends from a marketplace and a stockyard combined.
All at once, the visage of the carpenter changed. There arose in His soul an indignation akin to that which characterized the ire of the prophets and the God who inspired their fury in the times long passed. Indeed, it grew in intensity as He fashioned a whip out of twisted rushes from the scattered fodder and litter of the cattle. The finished product was more of a symbol than a weapon but all would know its meaning.
Up to this point, none had given attention to His presence here. But suddenly that situation changed. With the force of an army, He single-handedly purged the entire area: He chased the merchants and their animals out, overturned the tables of the money-changers, poured out their ill-gotten gains onto the stone pavement and reprimanded the pigeon-dealers thusly: “Take these things away! Do not turn my Father’s house into a market!” (Jn. 2:16).
The shock value of this action on His part was total. The Jews were incredulous, even demanding a sign to demonstrate that He was a genuine prophet. But His disciples remembered the words of another divine prophet, “My zeal for Thy house will consume me” (Ps. 69:9).
A close study of the Gospels demonstrates that Jesus purged the temple in this fashion on two separate occasions. He did so once early in His ministry (here in John 2), and once just prior to His crucifixion and death (Matt. 21:12-13 and parallels). Now, I think that very few of those who profess to be disciples of Jesus would be willing to accept the consequences of a present-day visit to their house of worship. But what if He did visit? What would that visit be like?
Would it turn out to be a purge? Would he find it necessary to chase out the musicians and entertainers, the magicians and karate-experts, the diners and the dancers, the bar-tenders and the boozers? Would he overturn the bingo-tables and pour out the lottery tickets and the gambling chips? Would he rebuke the minister with the words, “Make not my Father’s house a house of entertainment”?
With the present condition of religion in general there is a very good chance that this might accurately describe what the Lord would find and what He would do in the house where you worship. If so, then you had better do your house cleaning before the Lord does arrive, or else find another place to worship!
Truth Magazine XXII: 31, p. 505
August 10, 1978