Who is this who rides into Jerusalem for the Passover festival on a donkey
amid an excited crowd shouting "Hosanna!"? The pilgrims from Galilee
were proud to hail him as their native son, the prophet from Nazareth.


 

When Jesus had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved,
saying, "Who is this?" So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the
prophet from Nazareth of Galilee."

Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those
who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of
the money changers and seats of those who sold doves. He said
to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,'
but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'"

Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He
healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the
wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the
temple and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" they were
indignant and said to Him, "Do you hear what these are saying?"

Jesus said to them, "Yes. Have you never read, 'Out of the mouth
of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise'?" Then
Jesus left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged
there.
                                                       Matthew 21:10-17 NKJV, condensed


                                      It Was Legal, But

Jesus normally stilled the storms of life and created peace. But on this
day, strong from his ride into Jerusalem, he entered into the corrupted
economic system at the temple and created havoc. His actions made
a statement and challenged the way business was conducted in his
Father's house. He momentarily stopped the profiteering, but it didn't
change the way the system operated. Shoppers continued to come;
sellers continued their excesses.

The marketplace in the first century temple was very specialized.
Merchants sold animals to the worshipers for sacrifices--goats and sheep
or to the poor, doves and pigeons. For a fee, moneymen exchanged
foreign currency into the required coins for the annual temple tax. All this
was done in the courtyard of the Gentiles, the only part of the consecrated
place in which Gentiles could worship God and gather for prayer. Thus
the house of prayer for all nations was reduced to a noisy, smelly den
of thieves.

Instead of offering a service, they were selling convenience. People could
purchase everything they needed for the worship experience right there
on the grounds of the temple. Just buy it on the way in. What could be
easier--for example, wouldn't it be convenient if, when we go to a wedding,
vendors would meet us in the church courtyard, also known as a garden
of prayer for any who pass by. There, we could purchase a present for
the bride and groom, gift-wrapped and ready for us to grab at the last
minute. All we have to do is sign our name to the attached card and lay
the beauty on the gift table inside the door.

Convenience generally costs more. And it's not difficult to imagine that
the temple merchants bilked the out-of-town pilgrims for all they could
get. Neither is it hard to believe that the corruption at the bottom went
all the way up to the top--in this case the governing body and the high
priest himself.

So Jesus cleansed the holy place by driving everyone out and upsetting
the wares. He had a score to settle. The buyers could get their goods
elsewhere. The merchants, who were making a mockery of all that
God is, simply had to go. Legally, they were in the right, but the custom
showed neither honor nor respect for God or their fellowman

A house of prayer or a den of thieves--wouldn't you think we could tell
the difference! Jesus justified his bold action by quoting from two Old
Testament prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah. But it was only a temporary
reprieve for a long-term problem. Force imposed from without does
not produce the inner transformation needed to bring about permanent
change. 

After cleansing the temple, Jesus demonstrated the true character
of God. He turned the place of worship back into God's house by healing
those who came to him. Interestingly, the temple authorities, who weren't
bothered in the least by the routine financial exploitation of the worshipers,
were very troubled when Jesus used the temple to restore sight to the
blind and mobility to the lame!

When the head honchos witnessed the "wonderful works of God" and
heard the praises, they became indignant! Jesus and the religious
leadership were on two separate tracks. They didn't even come close.
The officials at the shrine in the capital city of Jerusalem viewed Jesus
as an unworthy rival from the Galilean countryside who didn't belong on
their turf. And here he was attempting to take charge and telling them
what to do!

The people who followed Jesus into Jerusalem and had cheered him
on probably liked the changes they saw at the temple. Now they could
catch a free dove and scramble for some change to go with it, too.
Yet people who stopped to take it all in knew there would be grave
consequences from an upheaval like this. Jesus, anticipating the
inevitable, retired to the safety of a small town named Bethany, where
his friends--Mary, Martha and Lazarus--lived. One days troubles
are sufficient . . . .

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: What's wrong with buying the wedding gift from a vendor
                       in the church courtyard?

 

Make a list of things which are legal in our society which you wish were not.
            Would a show of force change the status of any of these things?
            What other options are available to get people to change their behavior?

 

Routines become so common we no longer question whether it's right or
wrong. It's like a dirty house; those who live in it seldom notice the dirt.
            Name something routinely done in God's name which you think
                        belies the nature and character of God.
           What happens when you bring something clean into a filthy environment?

 

The reaction of Jesus in this text is sometimes referred to as "righteous
indignation".  The chief priests and scribes were also indignant.
            State the difference between indignation and righteous indignation?
            What was Jesus' goal in this incident?
            What were his opponents concerned about?

 

Is there anything which fills you with "righteous indignation"?
            What channels do you have to express it?
            Do you have lots of company or do you feel lonely on this issue?

 

Is anger a sin?   Or when is anger a sin?   Explain your answers.

 

The text says it was the children who were praising Jesus.
            What is the significance or implication of that statement?
            Why was the chanted message of these children so distressing
                        to the religious leadership?
The praises of children versus the condemnation of authorities--
            When and where have you witnessed a scene like that?
            How do you decide who is in the right?

 

Do you think these verses say anything to us today about fundraising in
our churches?
            If so, what is the message?

 

How might the people in Jesus' day have dealt with the issue of supplying
the needed sacrifices in a more "godly" way?
            Work out a plan which Jesus would have approved.

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