WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 15, 2012
CLEANSING THE TEMPLE
(Keep JESUS the focus of worship)
Unlike the three Synoptic Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke, John’s Gospel account of JESUS’ cleansing of the temple at Jerusalem comes at the beginning of JESUS’ ministry, rather than near the end. This fact, and, the differences in their narrations, leads most scholars to believe that there were probably two temple cleansings performed by JESUS, during HIS three-year ministry, one at the beginning, which caught the people by surprise, and a second in the third and final year, probably during HIS “passion week”. This second cleansing probably contributed more heavily to the Jewish leader’s plans and desires for JESUS’ death.
At the time of the annual Jewish Passover, JESUS went up to Jerusalem, as was HIS custom, and visited the temple, most likely to teach and preach. However, in the “court of the Gentiles”, the outermost court of the temple, the Jews had begun a tradition of buying and selling animals used for sacrifices at the temple, during Passover. They rationalized these activities, as providing a convenience for the pilgrims, who had journeyed into Jerusalem from afar, and needed lambs, or doves, or, needed their currency changed over to the local currency so that they could participate in the Passover rituals and celebrations.
Unfortunately, like all of the best-laid plans of men, abuses soon developed, and pilgrims became, more often than not, victims of scams and high prices, by corrupt dealers and merchants. For instance, they had even begun to charge an admission fee, or dues, in order to enter into the temple during Passover.
When JESUS saw all of this corrupt activity, taking place in the House of GOD, HE made HIMSELF a whip from some ropes and chased all of the merchants and moneychangers, and their livestock, out of the temple. HE then walked over to those who sold doves and instructed them to take their birds and leave the temple also, because they were turning the house of GOD into a marketplace that was attracting robbers and thieves.
When the angry Jewish leaders, who were, no doubt, getting their cut from the temple proceeds, asked JESUS, “What right did HE have to clear the temple?”, and, to show them a miraculous sign if HIS authority came from the LORD, JESUS responded by telling them to “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”.
Now it had been 46 years since King Herod the great had started rebuilding on the temple that Zerubbabel and his crew had constructed, following the Israelites 70-year stint in Babylonian captivity. Herod had decided that he would restore the temple back to the glorious state that King Solomon had brought to it, during his prosperous reign. However, the temple that JESUS spoke of was the temple of HIS OWN body, a statement that the spiritual-less Pharisees were incapable of hearing, and actually, so too were HIS disciples, at that time. The disciples, however, did recall this statement after JESUS’ Resurrection, and because of the many miraculous signs and wonders that JESUS performed at the Passover, many other people were also convinced that HE was truly the MESSIAH. However, JESUS didn’t trust them, because HE knew what people were like. After all, HE was present at the beginning of creation (John 1:1), and so no one needed to tell HIM about human nature.
JESUS disrupted the ungodly activities that were taking place at the temple in Jerusalem because it had become a den of robbers and thieves whose greatest sin was, that, they were blocking the poor, who couldn’t afford their services, from worshiping GOD in the temple during Passover.
Notice how differently JESUS handled those who sold doves (John 2:16). The dove was mostly used by the poor as an acceptable sacrifice for Passover worship, but their product may have been hard for the poor to acquire because of temple admission fees, and the exorbitant money exchanging fees, that were required before the purchase. JESUS was not protesting against the sacrificial system itself, however, here the purpose of the sacrifices was being lost to the criminal element. Then too, the merchants were also transacting their business inside the temple in the only area where the Gentiles were permitted to enter, thus, they were also blocking their opportunity and right to worship peacefully.
And so, even though the dove merchants were providing a similar temple service for the poor, they were still, in tandem with the other merchants, blocking another segment of GOD’s people from worship, in this case, the Gentiles. Here in this passage, JESUS is clearly showing us that GOD will not hold blameless, anyone, who blocks another human being, made in HIS spiritual image, from worshipping HIM, at any time, not in the Christian Church of the first century, and certainly not in the Christian Church today.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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