Cleansing the Temple - Part 2

In the previous article, we observed that we must balance our view of Jesus.  The same Lord who lovingly healed all diseases also aggressively kicked people out of the temple area.  To accurately understand Jesus, you must incorporate both truths.

However, that was not the immediate concern of those who were at the temple and objected to Jesus’ actions.  They did not come up to Him and protest saying, “You are a healer and teacher of love.  How can you do something like this?”  That was not their concern nor their question.  What they did ask was, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” (Mk. 11:28; Mt. 21:23; Lk. 20:2; John 2:18).   They didn’t see this action as being outside of Jesus’ character but rather as outside of His jurisdiction.  What right did He have to decide who could be in the temple area and what they could or could not do?

It is recorded in the Mishnah (a collection of ancient Jewish teachings) that it was improper to enter the temple with a money belt on or to use the temple as a short cut (Mishnah Berakhot 9:5).  When Jesus arrived at the temple, there were plenty of money belts as there was a lot of buying and selling going on, and there were also people using the temple as a short cut (Mk. 11:15-16).  It certainly seems that Jewish leadership frowned on what was going on at the temple, but they lacked the gumption or the authority to do anything about it.  Jesus did what they could not.  

When Jesus was confronted about His authority the first time He cleansed the temple, He responded by offering them future proof that He had the right to kick people out of the temple.  His proof?  “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).  They thought Jesus was speaking of the literal temple, and that His promise was absurd.  The temple took forty-six years to build!  How could He rebuild it in just three days?  But they were mistaken.  He was talking about something different, but even more spectacular.  He meant that if they killed Him, three days later He would be resurrected from the dead (John 2:20-22).  No amount of time would be sufficient for a human king to accomplish such a thing.  What right did Jesus have to kick people out of the temple?  He had the power over death itself.  That’s a pretty good answer to their question, don’t you think?

On the second occasion when Jesus cleansed the temple, He is again asked the same question.  This time, Jesus does not bother to answer (Mt. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-8).  It was obvious that they did not really want to know the truth.  Besides, Jesus had already given ample evidence.  Who, or what, gave Him the right to cleanse the temple?  Well, how many diseases had He conquered already and demons had He cast out?  Jesus had more power than anyone who had walked the earth.  Where does such power come from?  They knew the answer: only from God (John 3:2; 9:32-33; Acts 2:22; 10:38).

Jesus did not act alone.  God was with Him.  As a result, it didn’t matter whether people liked what Jesus was doing or not.  He did it anyway.  Can you imagine how upset some people must have been with Him?  Who likes being threatened with a whip (or potentially, hit with one) or having their tables overturned with money and merchandise being dumped everywhere.  Surely there were people upset.  But no one stopped Jesus.  That’s what it means to have authority.  It means to be right in what one is doing and to have the power to act.

Why does that matter to us today?  Because Jesus has all authority today too (Mt. 20:18).  He gets to make the rules and it simply does not matter whether you like them or agree with them.  His rules are the rules because He has the authority and you do not.  Beyond that, He has the power to enforce those rules.  Someday, everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (II Cor. 5:10).  People who don’t believe in Jesus won’t be excused.  He has authority whether they recognize it or not.

So when people want Christians to just mind their own business—to believe what we believe but leave everyone else alone to do whatever they want—should we respect their wishes and never warn them about the consequences of their behavior?  Don’t you think the people at the temple felt the same way?  Jesus should just leave them alone and let them be, right?  Wrong.  They were kicked out anyway.  Why?  Because Jesus has authority and they were in the wrong.  The world needs to know this and so do we.

“God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).