Jesus Cleanses the Temple of the Moneychangers
Jesus Cleanses the Temple of the Moneychangers – The Account in Scripture
After Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, Jesus went to Capernaum where he stayed for a few days. However, the “Passover of the Jews was at hand,” so Jesus made the long trek to Jerusalem for the religious festival.
A memorable event happens when Jesus arrives at the Temple in Jerusalem. In classic art, the event is known as Jesus Cleansing the Temple of the Moneychangers:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:13-16)
Jesus Cleanses the Temple of the Moneychangers – The Place in History
Jesus cleanses the temple of the moneychangers and sellers of merchandise because of his disgust at what they had made of God’s house of prayer. Judaea was under the rule of the Romans, and the money in current use was Roman coinage. However, the Jewish law required that every man should pay a tribute to the service of the sanctuary of “half a shekel” — a Jewish coin. Therefore, it became a matter of convenience to have a place where Roman coins could be exchanged for Jewish half shekels. The moneychangers provided this convenience, but, of course, required a small fee for the exchange. Because so many thousands came up for the great feasts in Jerusalem, changing money was a very profitable business — one that resulted in fraud and oppression of the poor.
Similarly, according to Jewish Law, cattle, sheep, doves or pigeons were required to be offered for certain religious sacrifices. A lucrative business of selling pre-approved, “priest-approved,” animals sprang up, with the sellers gouging the faithful by charging crazy-high prices. All this happened right around the Temple itself, in the Halls of the Royal Stoa.
According to Josephus, Herod the Great had surrounded the Temple and its courts with a huge stoa – or porch – that consisted of multiple rows of marble columns that supported a roof. The Royal Stoa on the south side of the Temple complex was the largest and most ornate, consisting of four rows of columns – covering an area of 607 feet by 74 feet. The bustling Temple marketplace was located under the cover of this huge structure – the main entrance to the entire Temple complex.
Think of the smelly scene — thousands of animals, birdcages, tables, and haggling hucksters — all as you approached the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was shocked. He was passionate for the purity of the Jewish Temple — his Father’s house. He witnessed the priestly aristocracy that profited from the Temple. He walked among the sanctioned sellers who preyed on the poor. Jesus was enraged — filled with what we call, “righteous indignation.” Simply, he took a bullwhip out on the unholy business of “organized religion” that had defiled the Temple grounds. In a nutshell, Jesus cleaned house, cleansing the Temple of the moneychangers.