And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple…
When we are told that this took place "in the temple" we are not to suppose that the Holiest of all is meant, but the Court of the Gentiles. It was this portion of the sacred enclosure that was converted into a market. It was doubtless a convenient arrangement, and a profitable one; but it was a bold offence, and drew down the severe condemnation of Christ. Men may buy and sell in the temple, so to speak, without the presence of the articles and actual proceedings of commerce. How many of you are busy, in God's house, with the secularities of everyday life! Many do in spirit what these men did in fact. There is no need to call in the aid of miracle to account for the consequences of Christ's interference. Holy will is strong, especially when dealing with sinful consciences which are weak. Wrong felt the presence of Divine right, and departed. Strange to say, this action of Christ has been objected to. There are periods when logical arguments and gentle persuasions are out of place, and reason and righteousness assume their right of direct appeal, in word and act, to the inmost sense and conscience of men. Christ was thus severe only with corruption: He had nothing but tenderness for simply evil; He poured His hot displeasure only on the hardened wretches that covered their real sin with seeming sanctity. We see an under meaning in this incident: Christ standing in thy temple of universal humanity, and by His word of power redeeming it from the desecrations of sinful corruption and abuse, rescuing it to the honour of its slighted Lord.
I. THE TEMPLE OF GOD IS DESECRATED AND DEFILED.
1. Look at the heathen world; behold there the strength of the corruption. The religious sentiment strong amongst them is abused; at least it operates through fear, distrust, and hate, instead of love, hope, and faith; at worst it is the tool of craft and lust. Thus the highest endowments bring about the lowest degradation.
2. Thus has it been with every mode of revealed religion. Thus it was with Judaism. The life-giving spirit had perished; its very form had become corrupt. Does Christianity present an exception to this desecration? What is the religion of many of you but a buying and selling in the temple! Self-interest has its office in religion, but it is not an element of religion itself. Indeed, there is no juster distinction between true and false religion than this: In true religion, self-interest is made the means of what is spiritual; in false religion, what is spiritual is made the means of self-interest. When religion appears as a ladder set up between heaven and earth for all God's angels to descend and minister to man, but not for aspirations and holy communions to ascend from man to God; when Christianity is contemplated as a scheme of political economy, and the Lord of all is regarded chiefly as the most useful being in existence, we make our hearts the scenes of degrading traffic.
II. THIS DESECRATION AND DEFILEMENT OF THE TEMPLE OF GOD SHOULD CREATE HOLY AND VEHEMENT INDIGNATION. What is there in the scene we have surveyed to call for holy wrath?
1. It involves the abuse of what is best and highest — "My house," etc. His Father's house was polluted. The highest view to take of sin is always that it dishonours God; the man who dishonours God also dishonours himself. When is God more dishonoured than when the many gifts by which He may be felt, known, served, frustrate His purposes and misrepresent His being? As when faculties, whose sphere is spirit, feed and flatter the flesh.
2. It involves the promotion of the worst and lowest things — "A den of thieves." They who rob God can scarcely be expected to be very scrupulous in their dealings with men. The best things when abused become the worse; there is no devil like a fallen angel. The reasons are not far to seek. The best things are the strongest. The best things when abused have a natural tendency to exceed in evil. Still further, good when it is abused hardens the moral feeling.
III. JESUS CHRIST APPEARS BEFORE US AS THE CLEANSER OF THE TEMPLE OF GOD. How does He effect it?
1. He comes into the temple of God as the living representative of Divine things. He appears as the Son of God in His "Father's house."
2. He makes an effective appeal to men on the true character and design of Divine things — "Is it not written, My house shall be called," etc. He draws attention to the nature and object of the sacred place. He forbids what is auxiliary to the condemned abuse. He "would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple." The purification of humanity is slow, but sure.
(A. J. Morris.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
WEB: They came to Jerusalem, and Jesus entered into the temple, and began to throw out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of those who sold the doves.