Yesterday I mentioned John White’s book, The Golden Cow: Materialism in the Twentieth—Century Church. We looked at the first of three areas White cited as abuses of the church related to commercialism. We will continue that discussion today by looking at the second and third areas of abuse he noted. Here they are:

When Jesus drove the money changers and those who were selling animals for sacrifice from the Court of the Gentiles, he justified his action by a comparison of two Old Testament phrases. In the first, Isaiah referred to the temple as a “house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7). In the second, Jeremiah says that the hypocritical worshipers of his day had caused the temple to become “a den of robbers” (Jeremiah 7:11). Jeremiah was writing about hypocrisy. Jesus used the word “robbers” to describe the unjust extortion that was going on. But hypocrisy must also have been in his mind, as the story about the barren fig tree which follows shows.

To get a proper understanding of what was going on when Jesus overthrew the tables we have to know that the temple was a huge religious complex. The temple itself was relatively small. consisting merely of the Holy Place, where the priests ministered and the Most Holy Place, which only the high priest could enter and that only once a year. But this comparatively small building was surrounded by several concentric courts, the outermost of which was the very large Court of the Gentiles. This is where the money changing and the selling of sacrificial animals took place because, being the place for Gentiles! it was not judged to be a sacred place.

The twenty-first chapter of Matthew marks the beginning of the end of Jesus’ ministry, though we are only two-thirds of the way through the gospel at this point. The reason Matthew 21 marks this beginning is that it records the events leading to Jesus’ final break with Judaism. We looked at one of these events in the last study: Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday (Matthew 21:1-11). Jesus intended it as a presentation of himself to Israel as her Messiah and King. It provoked the praise of the people as well as the hostility of the religious leaders. The second event is the one we come to now: the cleansing of the temple (vv.12-17).

Who is Jesus? This is the time to get your answer to that question straight. in case you have never done it before. Matthew has presented Jesus as God's King. We have seen him reflected by many but believed on by a Few. Where do you stand on the issue? Is Jesus the King? is he the Son of God? is he the Savior? Have you trusted him for the salvation of your soul?