Scripture: And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. Matthew 21:2-17 ESV
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Observation: Recapping yesterday’s Daily Focus (click here to read), Matthew records Jesus’ final and triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where the mercurial crowds (who will soon turn against him and demand his crucifixion) shout out praises and acknowledge him as the Son of David. Matthew tells us that Jesus orchestrated his entry on a colt to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy (Zechariah 9:9-13, click here to read). So those who gathered to welcome him placed their cloaks and tree branches on the path while shouting messianic praises that caused a stir throughout Jerusalem. When more rushed to the scene and questioned the identity of this man receiving all the attention and praise, the crowd responded that Jesus is the Nazarene prophet.
In today’s reading, Matthew tells us that after Jesus entered the city, he went straight to his Father’s house (the temple). Seeing all the money-changers crowding the outer Court of the Internationals (also known as the Court of the Gentiles), Jesus zealously disrupts their business operations and calls them out as robbers who have disrupted his Father’s house of prayer. Having driven them out, the blind and lame come to Jesus and receive healing, and little children echo their parents’ words from his earlier procession through the city gates: “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
Jesus’ actions were too much for the jealous religious leaders who took umbrage. So they question whether he hears what the children are saying (implying why he is not silencing their praises). Jesus (following the rabbinical formulaic of answering a question with a question) affirms he hears the children and asks if they have never read David’s psalm, where he declares the majesty of Yahweh (8:1) and adds that from the mouth of babies and infants, he establishes strength to still the enemy (Psalms 8:2, click here to read). Jesus rightfully implies that it is praise that proceeds from children’s mouths that hushes enemies. And, indeed, his enemies are silenced in this drop-the-mic moment. So Jesus walks out of the temple and heads to his lodging in Bethany (a twenty-minute walk).
Takeaway: The exchanging of money for animal offerings for the Passover is not the issue here. It would not be feasible for the Diaspora (the Jews who dispersed from Israel to other regions of the Greco-Roman empire) to bring animals with them on the long journey to Jerusalem. Instead, Jesus addresses two elements of the money-changers’ corruption. First, they were taking advantage of these vulnerable sojourners by profiteering. Secondly, and most importantly, they had set up shop in the temple’s outer court that served as a worship space for god-fearing internationals to gather and pray. Their corrupt and selfish practices infuriated Jesus, who was zealous for his Father’s house. So he drives them out of this consecrated space and reestablishes its use for the sacred purposes of teaching and healing. Thus, he does not apologize to the religious leaders who failed to do the right thing and prohibit the Court of the Internationals from becoming a marketplace.
Our takeaway? Three points come to mind. First, Jesus still drives out the evil forces who defile us—we who are his sacred temples. Indeed, he and the Holy Spirit indwell us. Hence, Jesus will not share our minds, hearts, and souls with evil spirits or tolerate those humans who perpetrate evil against us. He drives out those who abuse us, addresses the addictions that bind us, and silences the enemy who accuses us.
Secondly, Christ upholds prayer as a treasured gift from God. There is no substitute for prayer, and nothing moves without prayer. It is our lifeline to the Father, and the Son will not let anything or anyone cut off its supply. As cited in previous Daily Focus devotions, one of the essential roles of the Holy Spirit is to intercede in prayer on our behalf, interpreting our sighs and groans when words escape us (Romans 8:26-27, click here to read). And Jesus continues to pray for us from his heavenly office (Romans 8:34, click here to read).
Lastly, Jesus will not tolerate any who disrupt or silence others who gather to worship him, whether a pastor hiding his moral failures, misguided elders who make decisions without prayerful discernment, or church members seeking to silence those who express a childlike faith.
On a positive note, if we focus on the essentials of our faith (our core tenets) and prayerfully discern their application via a deeper understanding of the Father and Son’s holiness, sacrificial love, and mercy, we will bless them, ourselves, and others as we grow together in the riches of Christ’s grace.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who demonstrated a zealousness for your “house of prayer” and an uncompromising commitment to the welfare of his spiritual brothers and sisters. So would you please help us to follow his lead and prayerfully discern your will in blessing others as they and we grow in our faith and his grace? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling