Merchants and Moneychangers

John 2:13 – 25

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Countless times I have come to a passage of scripture, which after casual reading doesn’t appear specifically relevant to me. It is only after further study and reflection that its meaning pulls into focus like the zoom lens on a camera. The temple cleansing performed by Jesus in John 2:13-25 is one of those passages.

There is a debate among scholars as to whether Jesus cleansed the temple once or twice during his earthly ministry. I think I’ll skip that debate here. John tells us that Jesus drove the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple courts on the eve of Passover.   Passover is an annual feast commemorating God’s deliverance, the Jewish exodus out of Egyptian slavery.

In this passage, merchants penned up animals in the outer court of the temple area making them more accessible to worshipers. Worshipers could conveniently acquire a lamb for Passover, but paid a premium for this service. Likewise the temple tax had to be paid with a certain coinage. Moneychangers were on hand to exchange currencies while pocketing a tidy profit.

So why was Jesus upset? Merchants, moneychangers, the temple treasury and worshipers all seemed to benefit from these transactions. Maybe it was because God’s house had become a marketplace; a place where needs could be tangibly met by merchants and moneychangers. Was God being remembered at all in the transactions or was worship more about getting there and getting it done and over with?

The offended merchants asked Jesus for a miracle to prove he had the authority to behave in such manner. Jesus predicted a miracle, which would come several days later. According to John, the disciples of Jesus tied the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection back to this event.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5:6-8:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Fast-forward 2000 years, the Jewish temple where the presence of God dwelt lies in ruins but God is still with us. Today, the Spirit of God dwells in the hearts of believers. For the Christian, it is an intimate relationship made possible by the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Only those who acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son, and accept the free gift of salvation have access to this special relationship. Jesus is our Passover Lamb, offering eternal life and liberation from the bondage of sin.

Putting myself in this passage in a modern context begs the question, what is the condition of the temple of God in my own heart? Would Jesus be upset with who or what has taken up residence there? What sorts of merchants and moneychangers are robbing me of the ability to worship God more fully? Has worship become no more than getting to church and getting it done and over with?

For me, the relevance of the passage has become clear as crystal. God wants a heart free of clutter.  One that offers complete devotion and attention to Him.  God is my deliverer.

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