Focus on Jesus Series
Jesus Throwing Over the Tables
by Ed Vasicek
Jesus "cleansed" the Temple on two occasions. The first occasion was early in His ministry (John 2), and the second during His final pre-resurrection week. Today's sermon will discuss why Jesus had a right to do what He did, a right we do not have.
John MacArthur discusses the type of business Jesus interrupted. Speaking of the "Court of the Gentiles" in the Temple complex where this occurred, he writes:
...the area had come to be used as a religious marketplace, operated under the auspices of the high priest, Annas. He was a corrupt and vile man, who saw the Temple and his exalted position only as a means to personal power and wealth. The business enterprises in the Court of the Gentiles came to be known as the "Bazaar of Annas," whose chief priests and other associates oversaw the Temple franchises. Merchants would buy rights to a concession for selling sacrificial animals, wine, oil, or salt, or for exchanging money into the proper currency and denominations used in Temple offerings. In addition to the franchise fees the operators would often be required to pay a certain percentage of their profits to Annas.
According to the levitical law, any animal approved by the priests could be offered in the Temple. But chief priests made certain that animals not bought in one of the franchises would be judged unacceptable, giving their concessionaires the de facto right to provide all the animals...a person would often have to pay as much as TEN TIMES what an animal normally cost. As if that extortion were not enough, those who needed to have foreign currency exchanged or who had to have their money converted into the exact amount for an offering were charged a twenty-five percent fee. Jesus was therefore speaking quite literally when He called the Temple marketplace "a robbers' den." (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew, Volume 3, p. 268.)
I personally do not think legitimate enterprise, for the convenience of worshippers, would have been wrong. It wasn't enterprise Jesus condemned, but corrupt, exploitable enterprise. Sacrifices were sacred, and to take advantage of people who were attempting to obey the Law was no small sin.
Also worth noting is that, unlike the priesthood, most Jews were sincere in their religious practice. The common Jews were often very devout, as were some of the leading Jews, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
Highland Park Church