Jesus Cleanses the Temple (Part 1)
John 2:13-17 reads - "Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And he found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When 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 their tables. And He said to those who sold doves, 'Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!' Then His disciples remember that it was written, 'Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.'"

All Hebrew adult males were required to attend the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread in Jerusalem annually (Deut. 16:16,17). This is the first Passover after Jesus began His work preaching and teaching. John records Jesus keeping three other Passovers (cf. 5:1; 6:4; 11:55). This gives the entire length of Jesus' ministry as approximately three-and-one-half years.

Jesus found people doing business in the temple; that is, in the Court of the Gentiles. The two types of business dealings taking place were related: (1) Those who had traveled a long distance would likely be using foreign currency, and they would need to have it exchanged for Judean money so (2) they could purchase an animal for a sacrifice. These services would be helpful to those who had traveled a long distance (after all, purchasing an animal at the temple is much more convenient than trying to bring one with you many miles). While the business going on here was likely honorable at one time, unfortunately it had degraded into two opportunities to exploit people out of greed by charging ridiculous amounts to exchange their currency and sell animals.

Jesus observed this materialistic misuse of the sacred precincts of the temple and was outraged. They had turned the house of prayer into a den of thieves (cf. Mark 11:17). He made a whip and used it to drive out the sellers, money changers, and animals. It is likely that Jesus performed a similar action on a later occasion, and thus what is here recorded here in John is not the same incident that Matthew, Mark, and Luke record. This is the first recorded action of Jesus where He undoubtedly starts to make some enemies. This incident also proves the fact that it is possible to become angry without committing sin and that sometimes such is needful (cf. Eph. 4:26).

Since the doves were in some sort of cages and could not be driven out, Jesus called upon their owners to remove them (John 2:16). Notice that in all this, Jesus did not destroy anything. The sheep and oxen were safe outside the temple, the scattered money could be gathered from the stone pavement, and the doves were not set free from their cages. Jesus understood that the temple, the house of God, which He called "My Father's house", was not for the purpose of commercial enterprise. It was not a house of merchandise. They should have transacted honorable business outside the temple.

In John 2:17 we find a reference to Psalm 69:9. The original wording in Greek makes it difficult to know as to when the disciples made this connection. While it is possible that this Psalm came immediately to their minds as they witnessed the event, it seems more likely that they remembered it at some later time before John wrote these words and made this comment concerning them.

We will continue studying this narrative tomorrow.