Luke 19:45-46 (NIV) Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
The market in the temple court, actually in the large Court of the Gentiles which surrounded the inner complex where the Jewish people could enter in to worship, was started for good reasons. If someone traveled too far to bring an animal to sacrifice, or if the animal that they brought was defective in some way and couldn’t be offered, having a stock of acceptable animals that could be purchased, sheep, goats, bulls, and even doves, was a good thing. And having tables where people could exchange their Roman denarii , unacceptable for temple offerings because they bore the image of a pagan emperor and pagan gods and temples, for good Jewish shekels without those kinds of images, was a good thing.
The problem arose when the Jewish leadership realized that a handsome profit could easily be made from those good things. Raising the price just a bit above retail on the livestock that was sold (after all, every animal was officially certified to be acceptable to God, which was worth something) could bring in a tidy sum each day. And there was now strong motivation to closely inspect animals that had been brought to sacrifice. Was that a discoloration in the wool? What that hoof a bit malformed? Better to buy an animal that was certified than run the risk of your sacrifice being rejected by God!
And the same thing happened with the money changers. Instead of providing a straight-across trade, weight for weight, the tendency was to charge an exchange fee that was increased occasionally (due to inflation, of course).
Add to that the fact that this livestock market and trading floor, along with all of the noise and smells that went along with it, were taking up a lot of room in the court of the gentiles, the only place non-Jews could come to learn about the true God, and you could drive someone like Jesus right over the edge, which is exactly what happened.
Now that Jesus had taken up the title of Messiah, the first thing He did was to cleanse the temple of all that was worldly and not of God’s design. Of course all of this put Him on a collision course with the Jewish leadership. He was cutting into both their income and their authority structure that had been built up over centuries.
Father, we don’t often see Jesus angry, but we definitely do here. And it is good to understand that it was worldliness and greed in a place that was designed by You to be a place for prayer, worship, and even outreach, that drove Him there. Because none of those things could effectively happen when worldliness and greed had taken control. Help us to keep not only our church buildings, but our hearts as well, free of all of those things, so that You can use us effectively for Your agenda. Amen.