Men rushing around. Sheep bleating and doves cooing as money is changing hands. Jesus enters and takes total control of the chaos, turning over the money changers’ tables, scattering their profits, and releasing the lambs. Listen to this lesson to learn why Jesus is cleansing the Temple and how the religious leaders react. View detailed drawings of the Temple and find out that in the Church Age Christians’ bodies are a temple and are cleansed by confession of sin.
The book on the Temple that Dr. Dean mentioned during this Bible class is available from Rose Publishing: Rose Guide to the Temple by Dr. Randall Price.
Cleansing the Temple
Matthew 21:12–17; Psalm 118
Matthew Lesson #123
June 12, 2016
“Our Father, we are so grateful that we have Your Word; that it is Your Word that nourishes us, strengthens us. It does this by informing us of the realities of who You are, who we are as creatures created in Your image, corrupted by sin, and in need of a Savior, Who has truly paid it all. That through His work on the Cross, His substitutionary atonement, we have eternal life—faith alone in Him alone.
Father, now as we continue our study in this important section in Matthew—the last week of our Lord on the earth—we pray that You would help us to understand that which is being communicated to us and why it’s being communicated to us, that we may have a greater appreciation for Who our Lord is, and that we may through these episodes have a richer understanding of Who our Lord is, as a person who came into this world to die for us.
We pray this in His precious name, Amen”.
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 21, and this morning we’re going to begin in verse 12.
On this particular day that we’re studying, as dawn came to Jerusalem, I would imagine that the business men who had their areas of business—their kiosks—down at the Temple Mount, awoke early and busied themselves to get ready for what was one of the most significant days in their business calendars. It was the 10th of Nisan.
The 10th of Nisan is the day that is set aside in the Book of Exodus when people would come to the temple, and they would select their sacrificial lamb that would be offered on the 14th of Nisan as their Passover lamb.
Josephus tells us that a quarter of a million lambs—he says around 267,000 lambs—were sacrificed each year at Passover. That’s an enormous number.
If one lamb is sacrificed for every 10 people in a family, then that would suggest that there were somewhere around 2.6 million people that would descend upon Jerusalem during Passover week. They would be camped out on all the hills, along all the valleys, all over Jerusalem crowding the city, staying with friends.
On the 10th of Nisan, representatives from the families would come to select those lambs. They would have to purchase lambs from these dealers inside the temple. They were referred to in the passage as moneychangers.
There was more to it than that, but because many of these people came from distant places: they came from Galilee, or they came from the south down around Hebron or Beersheba, or down in the Negev, or even further places in Syria, Cappadocia, Babylon, and Egypt.
They would not be able to bring a lamb with them from home, so they would have to purchase the lamb at somewhat inflated prices from one of these dealers in the temple. This was big business, and this was one of the biggest times of the year, much like our time from—what is it, Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas, when many merchants make most of their money for the year in that timeframe. That would be true at this time.
We’re told by some authorities that if you had the franchise on one of these booths, you might make between $2 and $3 million a year just as a result of these fraudulent practices that they had inside of the temple. So as they awoke that morning they were looking forward to one of the most lucrative times of the year; little did they imagine what would transpire.
On that day, the 10th of Nisan—we studied last week that something else took place. This day we’re going to see that the temple is cleansed and the significance of that for not only that time, but its analogy for us in the Christian life.
We saw last time that that morning, Jesus and his disciples along with a multitude—a huge number, it could have been numbered in the thousands—were following Him, and they left Jericho early that morning, and then they walked to Jerusalem.
That morning, they would have ascended—what is pictured here—from Jericho in the foreground. They would’ve gone up this road—if you can see this little strip, a ribbon of road—they would go up what is called the Ascent of Adummim.
Adummim is a Hebrew word meaning “bloods,” and it was the Ascent of Bloods, not because it was bloody, but because it looked like blood with the sun coming off of the stone. It looks red, so that was just the idiom—the ascent of the red objects—in a sense.
This is a trek that takes you from about 825 feet below sea level at Jericho up to Jerusalem, which is at approximately 2,600 feet above sea level. So they’re going to ascend about 3,400 to 3,500 feet in the course of 18 miles.
This walk has been taken many times by people—I’ve never been in Israel when it’s been quite cool enough to try to make this trek. But at Passover, this was the place—at the end of March of that year—it’s a time when it would be relatively cool: maybe as cool as 45°F or so in the morning.
They would’ve gotten up early that morning and begun the walk to Jerusalem, which would take them about six to eight hours, depending on how many times they rested, and how long they rested along the way.
So this is a long trek—it would put them into Jerusalem sometime after lunch, sometime in the early afternoon—just to give you an idea of what this particular day looked like.
Here’s a graphic that shows a cross-section of the elevation. The Dead Sea is down here at 1,290 feet below sea level, and they have to walk up to Jerusalem, which is 2,600 feet. Off here to what would be the west is the Mediterranean and the coastal plain in Israel. This cross-section gives you an idea of what this walk looked like and felt like.
As they came into the Mount of Olives area, they went off the Jericho road through Bethany to Bethphage, and Jesus sent two of His disciples to find an unbroken colt to bring to Him that He would ride into the city.
Now this wasn’t just some idea that Jesus had that, “I’m tired, I’ve been walking a long way, I think I’ll ride the last couple of hundred yards into the city.” He is meticulously seeking to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy that was mentioned in Zechariah 9:9.
As Matthew 21:5 tells us, this fulfills that prophecy which states, “Behold your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, a foal of a donkey.” This is an unbroken animal, and He was riding it to demonstrate His sovereign power as Creator over His creation and over the animals.
So He is coming in also—as we studied last time—on a significant day. If you go back and look at the prophecy of Daniel 9, that is a fulfillment of the timing of Daniel’s first 69 weeks or periods of seven.
This map here shows the route that they took from Bethany up to Bethphage. Here you’re near the crest of the Mount of Olives; then they would go down and cross the Kidron Valley, and then come up into the temple area.
Along the way, we saw that Jesus stopped, and He wept over the city because of their rejection of Him, because of their rejection of truth, and He indicates that their time for peace and the Kingdom would not come, and that it would be postponed and removed.
This is important to understand: that we are not in the Kingdom of God in any way, shape, or form. This has been a matter of great confusion down through church history. Amillennialism, which was a way of interpreting prophecy in the early part of the Church Age—not in the first couple of hundred years where they were pre-millennial—which means Christ would return before the Millennial Kingdom. They were amillennial. That prefix means “no literal thousand years,” “no literal millennium.”
The belief under Amillennialism is that we are living in a spiritual form of the Kingdom. That concept has led to much abuse because there have been kings and political leaders throughout the period from approximately AD 300 up through the early part of the 20th century, who in one form or another perverted that into the idea that they were establishing this Kingdom upon the earth.
The most recent of which was, of course, Adolf Hitler, who was establishing his. How long was that Third Reich supposed to last?—1,000 years. Where do you think he got that number? He didn’t just say, “Oh, that’s a nice round number.” All of this coming out the 19th century where you had a post-millennial idea that dominated many things.
That’s the idea: that first the church is going to bring in the Kingdom, and then the Messiah will come at the end of the 1,000 years—post-millennium. This dominated a lot of political theory. It died, many have said, on the Fields of Flanders. That’s an allusion to the bloody fields of the battlefields of World War I.
Post-millennialism was an optimistic view that things will get better and better, and they discovered that things were getting worse and worse. Post-millennialism got resurrected towards the end of the 70s and is now a much more influential theology.
If you pay attention to what is said by many, many Christians, they talk a lot about the Kingdom. It’s entered into the everyday idiom of most Christians, “We’re going to do this for the Kingdom, and that for the Kingdom,” and that just tells you that they are heretics—biblically ignorant and just involved in a lot of dead works. We’re not doing anything for the Kingdom now because the Kingdom isn’t going to come until Jesus returns.
We are not in a spiritual form of the Kingdom; we are not in a mystery form of the Kingdom. We’re not in any kind of anything for the Kingdom because to have a Kingdom, you have to have a domain and a king on the throne. Jesus is on His Father’s throne—at the right hand of His Father. He will not be on His throne until He comes in His Kingdom—Revelation 19—defeating the kings of the earth, and then establishing His Kingdom.
So He announces this postponement several times, and He does so in Luke 19:41, we learned, on His way down to Jerusalem. As He comes, the crowds that have been with Him, the multitudes, are laying out palm branches in front of Him, and they are singing from Psalm 118:25, which is Hosanna—in the Hebrew, Hoshiy’a na, which means “to save us”. It is a call to deliver us and to save us.
They are saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord,” recognizing that His coming, this entry is a display of His Messianic credentials and His Messianic role.
He is almost flaunting this in the face of the religious leaders of His time. That’s what’s going to happen over the next four days. Just as those Passover lambs that are being chosen on this particular day will be evaluated over the next four days to see if they are truly without spot or blemish and therefore qualified to be a Passover sacrifice, He’s going to enter into a series of confrontations with the religious leaders, and the course of those confrontations is going to display that He is the righteous Son of God, and that He is indeed who He claims to be, the Messiah of Israel.
As I said earlier it’s no mistake that He is entering in on this day. We looked at this prophecy briefly last time, that He enters in on March 30 of AD 33. This has been calculated by a number of people. This is what people refer to sometimes as Palm Sunday.
I’ll eventually get into the chronology of this week, but if Jesus enters in on Sunday, then the crucifixion had to occur on Thursday. I’m not against that—I think that’s very much a possibility—but it gets very confusing.
Palm Sunday is the 10th; all you have to do is count. That would mean that Monday’s the 11th, Tuesday—you know I have trouble with numbers—Tuesday’s the 12th, Wednesday’s the 13th, and Thursday would be the 14th, so that would call for a Thursday crucifixion.
However, there are number of people who argue that it was on Monday—that He actually entered in on Monday—and that would be a Friday crucifixion. A lot of debate that goes on over just what day of the week it was.
But the date—based on Dr. Harold Hoehner’s extensive studies on the chronology of the life of Christ based on prior studies that have been done on this Daniel 9 prophecy—of that triumphal entry was the day that ends that first prophetic period in Daniel 9.
The people recognize the timing—they recognize who He is. Now this isn’t all the people. If Josephus’ numbers are close to correct, you’ve got a couple million people that are going to be in Jerusalem by Thursday and Friday, and only a small percentage of them knew Who Jesus was and recognized Who He was.
They weren’t the people who are calling for Him to be crucified before Pilate on Friday; it was many of the others. And probably a lot of paid rioters were there as well who were bribed to be there by the Jewish leaders to call out for the death of Jesus.
So those who recognized who He was are quoting from the Psalms. His Messianic appeal, His Messianic claim is clearly evident.
Now what happens is that He is going to enter into the temple—as we see on this map—this shows the road. You probably can’t read that; it says “To Bethany” (on the right side of the map). You would take that road—that’s where the Jericho road came down the east side of the Temple Mount, on the west side of the Mount of Olives—and it passes the Garden of Gethsemane. Then it comes down across the Valley of the Kidron and up a slight slope into the Shushan Gate, which is the east gate going into the Temple Mount precinct.
We are told in Matthew 21:12 that, “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 the seats of those who sold doves.”
A couple of things we need to observe carefully here is the terminology. We have the word “temple” used here, and there are two words in the Greek language that are translated temple. The first is the word HIERON, and the second is the word NAOS.
The word HIERON is a broader term. It is a term that includes the entire temple precinct. It includes all the buildings that were on top of the Temple Mount: includes all the courtyards, the court of the Gentiles, the court of the women, the court of the priests.
But there is another word that is used in Scripture, and that’s the word NAOS, and that word just describes the center building, the temple itself. The Holy Place involving the two sections: the outer area and the inner area—the Holy of Holies.
The outer place was where the table of showbread was located, the menorah, and the altar of incense. Then inside the Holy of Holies was—but not at this time—the Ark of the Covenant, although there is some debate that perhaps the Ark at this time was hidden. Who knows?
We’ve all heard about the search for the Ark of the Covenant. It may have been hidden, maybe not; but we had a flat slab of rock there, that is where the Ark of the Covenant rested when it was in the first temple.
There is an Islamic monument over that rock called the Dome of the Rock—that’s the rock. So this is the location of the Temple Mount.
As we see as we go through Scripture, Scripture makes some important distinctions here. Jesus, when He is cleansing the temple here as well as at the beginning of His ministry in John 1, isn’t cleansing the NAOS. He’s not going into the building itself. He is cleaning up the outer courtyard area where there are these various abuses. We’ll make some application from that in a minute.
But just to understand a little bit about the background of the temple: this is a picture of Jerusalem in the time of David. It may surprise you to realize it wasn’t very large. It was a small, small place located on the downward slope below Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah is the location where Abraham was told to take his son Isaac and to bind him and to offer him as a sacrifice to God.
By the time of David, this mountaintop here was owned by a man named Araunah the Jebusite who sells that threshing floor area to David. Then that became the site of the first temple as well as the site of the second temple and is today known as the as the Temple Mount. This gives you an idea of what this area looked like.
In the history of the Temple Mount, you have Abraham going there to offer Isaac his son as a sacrifice. At the last minute, God stopped him. There was a ram that was caught in the brushes that God provided as a substitute. Abraham recognized this and gave Him the name, “the LORD provides”—the Lord provides a substitute.
Here is another depiction of the City of David at the time of Solomon: you can see at the very top here, a building that is constructed—that was the location of the first temple—Solomon’s Temple.
By the time of Christ, the second temple had been expanded by Herod. The first—sort of the first period—in the course of the second temple, was known as Zerubbabel’s Temple. It was somewhat modest compared to Solomon’s Temple because when they return from the exile, they didn’t have as many resources and as much money, so it was more modest.
But Herod, who loved to build, decided that he was going to redo the temple and make it a showpiece in all the world. In fact, there was a saying that you did not know what beauty was unless you had seen the temple in Jerusalem. It was considered the eighth wonder of the ancient world. It was absolutely magnificent, and it was it was quite large.
I’ve got several visuals for you to help you depict this. These are all drawn to scale, so you can see how small the people are—those little black dots are people—you can see how large the temple was.
The Temple Mount itself covered an area of about 35 acres, and it is surrounded by a wall. This is actually a retaining wall that was built by Herod the Great. It was all filled in, because prior to this, there was still something of a hilltop that you could see—that was the top of Mount Moriah. But he filled all of that in, and he built this retaining wall in order to support that immense weight of the temple.
When you go to Jerusalem, you can go on the backside of the temple area over here, which is where the Western Wall is located, and you can take a tour of what they call the Western Wall Tunnels. You go down about 40 or 50 feet, and you will see a foundation stone there—that I don’t have pictured—that is about as long as the width of this room, it is about 3 to 4 feet high, and they estimate its weight at around 440 tons.
They moved it there! That’s because those primitive people 2,000 years ago had a technology that is far superior to ours. We don’t know how they did it—we have some ideas—but they were able to quarry those stones and move them into place. You can’t slide a piece of paper in the cracks between the rocks: they fit that perfectly together. But they had to have these large, incredibly large stones there in order to hold the weight of the temple. This structure is enormous.
This is from a book that you can get that’s put out by Rose Publishing called “The Temple,” which is written by Randy Price. It has great visuals in it. In the opening pages, there’s this foldout—and I’ve got this electronically—but it would take four screens in order to show it at this size. I’m going to show you the center, and then the left side here.
This is looking from the east into the temple; this was the outer gate. Inside here you have the court of the women; they could not go further than that. Then you have the inner gate here. You can barely make out a little bit of something orange there; that’s where the altar was located. Then they had the lavers there; this was where the men entered. Then you had the court of the priests going inside.
If you look on the outside, there is a low barrier wall here and a low barrier wall on the right. It’s not very high—only a couple of feet high—that marked the border, and no Gentiles could go any closer than that. We’ll see that little more about that just a minute.
Looking to the left of the center structure: this was the area called the Stoa. It is in that area that these money changers would have set up their kiosks—their stalls—where they were selling animals and where they were exchanging money at an exorbitant rate.
Because when people came, they would have to pay their half shekel tax, and if they came from Egypt or Babylon or Rome or wherever, they would have some other form of money. They wouldn’t have shekels, so they would have to exchange the money at a high exchange rate. So the profiteers were making a tremendous amount of money.
Again, you can see this low wall here that separates the Court of the Gentiles from the interior area.
This is outside the wall; this is looking from the West back towards the temple itself. This is an area where there were also many other shops, and some of us have walked through the ruins of those shops, and there, perhaps, were some of the places where they were could also buy a sacrificial animal.
But this is not the area where Jesus was, because this would not have been called the temple. The temple would just be—that word HIERON just refers to the area that was inside those retaining walls—and then the NAOS would have referred only to this building itself. So the language is specific.
Here’s another view from the southwest corner. This is the backside of that Stoa area. You would enter into the Huldah Gates here; you can still today see the remains of these gates where you would enter in and go up some stairs. Those stairs are still there by the way, but now if you go—they’re blocked off—if you go up the stairs, you’ll end up in the middle of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is located there.
Again, this is that outside area: this is the remains of those various kiosks and stalls today.
This shows you a diagram. You’ve got the entryway here, the Shushan Gate on the east, the Court of the Women on the outside. Earlier when we were looking in, we were looking down: we could see the entryway here into the temple, the temple area; the priests here. We’re talking more about this area here: the Court of the Gentiles, the area of the Stoa.
This is just another shot showing you a picture of this low wall that separated the area from the Gentiles. This was the plaque that was located there telling Gentiles, basically: if you go beyond this sign, you’re going to die.
Then this shows in the temple model that they have at the Israel Museum how low that wall was. It was a couple feet high, but it gives you a sense of the dimension, how enormous this is.
Now this is from the Stoa area—you can see the number of people here. These were the shops, the money changers—this is the area where the action is taking place, and you’re looking out.
What I wanted to do with these pictures is to give you a sense of the immensity of this area. This isn’t just a small area like a church. A lot of people, when they think of the temple, they think of their church as some sort of analogy. This is a huge complex, 35 acres.
Jesus—probably watched by some of His many followers that went with Him—by Himself on the force of His own personality, is going to seize control of this area. That is profound. Jesus is going to take over, and He doesn’t face any opposition in doing it.
The people—many of the priests and rabbis at the time—recognized the corruption and tried to do something about it. But they couldn’t because there was basically a mafioso-type situation going on in Israel at the time. Everything that happened on the Temple Mount was controlled by Annas—who had been the high priest from AD 6 until AD 16—and he was like the godfather.
He controlled access: he controlled who got the franchises, he controlled who lost the franchises; he controlled everything. If you were going to get one of these places, you could possibly make a couple of million dollars, so you are paying a hefty fee for the privilege.
But I want you to get a sense: this is where the action is taking place. It had taken place earlier in his ministry. John 2 refers to the first time that it took place.
Now what was going on here: Annas had been the high priest from AD 6 to AD 16. At this point in time, his son-in-law, Joseph Caiaphas is the high priest. Caiaphas was the high priest from AD 18 to AD 36— he’s the high priest at the time that Jesus was arrested and brought before him.
But to show the power of Annas, Jesus is taken to Annas first before He’s taken to Caiaphas because Annas actually controlled everything. Six of his family members: sons, sons-in-law, and grandsons, served as high priests in the first century. He ran the show; he was the real power base: he was the one who controlled everything that’s going on in the temple.
Now as we look at that first verse, it tells us that Jesus went into the temple of God, and He drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple. That word indicates a somewhat violent action. He’s not throwing a temper tantrum, He’s not throwing a hissy; He’s not instigating a riot. He very calmly is walking through this enormous area, and He is flipping over their tables—He’s tearing down their stalls.
This took some time. Let’s say He arrives about 1 to 2 o’clock in the afternoon. He probably spent an hour or two tearing things apart, tearing things down, and physically running these people out of the area.
John 2:15–17 described what had happened earlier this way: “When he had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple”—this isn’t the meek and mild Jesus of your liberal Protestants, okay? This guy is physically tough—and He’s in His humanity— He’s not doing this out of His deity. He’s doing this out of His humanity: He has a presence of authority and power that flows from His integrity, where He meets no opposition. “… drove them all out of the temple with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers money and overturned the tables.”
“And he said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ ” Notice He doesn’t release the doves. I think that’s important because those were the sacrifices for the poor people. So He just tells them to take them away.
John 2:17. At that point, His disciples are putting things together, and they remembered from Psalm 69:9 talking about the Messiah’s “zeal for Your house has consumed me.”
We look at Matthew 21:12, and we see what is going on here: this is a cleansing of the outer temple, not the inner temple.
Now an implication of that is that when you get into the New Testament—we’re going to see that in 1 Corinthians 3:16—that our body is the temple of God.
The Greek word there is NAOS. It’s not HIERON. It’s that word for the Holy of Holies in the holy building.
That tells us that we are set apart positionally as God’s adopted children. We are priests unto God, we are set apart in a way no other believer in all of history is set apart or will be set apart, because we are indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, who makes us in the inner man, a temple—a dwelling place like the Holy of Holies.
That’s not what’s being cleaned up. What’s being cleaned up is what’s on the outside. This is a picture, and you can remember this—those of you who teach children in prep school—this is a great illustration of the whole importance of cleansing in Scripture.
The Old Testament depicts it: if you’re going to come into the temple, you have to be cleansed. You have to go through the ritual cleansing.
We saw this alluded to in Psalm 118 when the worshipers in this procession are going to enter. There’s this dialogue around Psalm 118:19–20, where it’s probably the Levitical priests who are saying only those who are righteous can enter in.
He’s reminding them of the ritual required that only those who are cleansed can enter into the temple to worship God. This is why we emphasize 1 John 1:9 at the beginning of every class. Only when we have been cleansed of sin are we in right relationship with God and right relationship with the Holy Spirit.
This is external: it’s dealing with the external part, the HIERON, not the internal part. So we are to be under the ministry of God the Holy Spirit, through the power of God’s Word—cleaning up our lives as it were. Not through our own moral efforts—which is just human good and good works—but through our walk by the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with the Word of God which works to change us from the inside out.
Matthew 21:13, Jesus makes the statement in relation to what He is doing. He says—we have two quotes from the Old Testament, “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.’ ”
What He is doing is going back to two Old Testament statements, and He is tying them together in what is taking place at this time.
Isaiah 56:7 was written in a time when Isaiah was looking forward to the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian captivity, when it would be a temple that was a house of prayer. He may even be talking about the future millennial temple in context.
He says, “Even them I will bring to my holy mountain.” I think this is the Millennial Kingdom, when all the nations will come to worship on the holy mountain. “I will bring them to My holy mountain and make them joyful in My house of prayer.” That’s the millennial temple, that’s the purpose of the temple relationship with God. “Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer…”
But Jesus stops there; He doesn’t quote the last phrase. He doesn’t say “for all nations” because He’s dealing with Israel here—He’s not dealing with the Gentiles at all.
Then he quotes from Jeremiah 7:11, which states, “Has this house.” This is a condemnation where Jeremiah is condemning the apostasy of his generation: “ ‘Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold I, even I have seen it,’ says the Lord”. Jesus just lifts out that phrase “a den of thieves.” Literally it means a cave of robbers.
If you’ve been to Israel, there are caves all over the country, there are caves everywhere. And these highwayman, these robbers, would hide out in these caves.
If you know anything about the Old West in American history, we had areas out in Utah and Montana that were called the “robber’s roost” or the “hole in the wall.” You may have heard of the “Hole in the Wall Gang” in reference to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. These were places where these robbers would go, and they would hide. This is the idea: that you turned the temple of the Lord into just a place for thieves, a place for thugs and bandits, people who hold up and steal money from those who are coming to worship the Lord.
So the first thing Jesus does is He comes into the temple: He exercises His authority as the Messiah, and He cleanses the temple to restore it to a place of worship.
This creates a head-on confrontation with the religious leaders. And, of course, it won a lot of friends from all those businessmen who are losing all that money. So it’s going to create further hostility from people in Jerusalem.
But the next thing He does is He sits down and He begins to minister to the people, again demonstrating His Messianic identity. Matthew 21:14, we’re told that “the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple”—still HIERON the temple—“and He healed them.”
This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 35:5–6. This is why you have Jesus healing all through His ministry: He’s not healing because He’s just going around to all the hospitals and healing people—He is demonstrating His Messianic credentials.
Isaiah 35:5–6 says, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer”. So this is a depiction again of the ministry of the Messiah when He comes.
We see what He is doing is He’s turning back the effects and the consequences of being in a sinful, corrupt world. That’s the role of the Messiah.
When Adam sinned, sin entered into the human race and entered into the universe, and the universe became corrupt. Prior to that, there was no sickness, there was no illness, there was no death—physical death—whatsoever. But after Adam sins, with corruption in the world, there’s going to be death, there’s going to be disease, there’s going to be sickness. All of these horrible things from birth defects to famine to war are all the consequences of sin.
Jesus is demonstrating as the Messiah: He rolls back the effects of sin. He heals the lame and He gives sight to the blind, demonstrating He is the Messiah.
But this really angers the chief priests and scribes. This is a one of several groups that are going to come and oppose Jesus. He’s going to be opposed by the Sadducees and the Pharisees.
We’ll find scribes mentioned several times. They’re mentioned 27 times in Matthew. I could talk for an hour about what I studied this last week on the scribes, but we have no time to do that. The scribes were—by this time in Israel’s history—the experts in the Law. They were walking Bible encyclopedias.
These scribes that began around 100 BC and again extended their influence until about AD 200, had memorized all of the Old Testament. That’s why the chief priests have them along. They’re going to engage in conversation with Jesus. He’s already made it clear that He knows the Torah, the whole Old Testament backwards and forwards.
So if He says something that stumps them, they can just turn to a scribe and say, “Well, what does that verse say?” And they’ll quote it from wherever. It’s because they’ve got the entire Old Testament memorized.
You could play a game with them. In fact, they were pretty arrogant, and proud of what they did, and you could just start a verse and they would end it. Pick a verse anywhere in the Old Testament and they would know it.
They preserved the text. There were numerous things they did, but they are the experts in theology and in the Bible at that time. So they’re going to accompany the chief priests and the chief priests—part of the job of a priest, according to Deuteronomy, was they were to be teachers of the Law.
So these experts in Torah are going to come to challenge Jesus, and they say when they see all these wonderful things, all these marvelous things, all these miracles that Jesus did. What’s happening is that children are now picking up the chant from Psalm 118. If the adults won’t do it, the children are going to do it.
Matthew 21:15, the children are crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” The second time we’ve had this reference to Jesus as the Son of David in this section, emphasizing the recognition of Him as the Messiah. They’re quoting from Psalm 118:25: Hoshiy’a na, means “Lord, come save us now.”
The response of the chief priests and scribes is that they’re indignant, they’re angry, they are frustrated, they want to get rid of Him. He’s tearing down everything that they are doing.
So Jesus confronts them, and He says, “Listen to what the children are saying.” Just stop, think about it because, you see, He knew they knew the Old Testament Scriptures by heart. “Listen to what they’re saying.” They should be able to stop, think, relax, and if they’re hearing the children quote Psalm 118:25 that whole Psalm should come to their mind. And that’s being fulfilled before their very eyes.
Then Jesus says, as He has on numerous occasions in Matthew and the other Gospels, He says to those who have memorized the Scripture, “Haven’t you read this?” It’s just a slap in the face.
See what happened with the scribes at this time is they’re copying the Scripture. It would take a scribe a year to make a copy of the Torah. They’re just not writing it out: each letter would be outlined in black, and then they would fill the letter in. As they are writing each letter with great precision and deliberation, they would sing that word in a song. They would sing the whole verse in a song, in a chant—they’ve memorized this.
These scribes know the Scriptures inside and out, backwards and forwards. Probably most of these men who were with Him, had copied the Torah maybe 50 or 100 times: they knew it so well.
So Jesus says, “Haven’t you read this?” And then He quotes from Psalm 8:2, “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength.”
The idea is that the religious leaders have completely failed, so God is going to raise up a witness from the children, that they will declare the truth.
He confronts them with their apostasy and their ignorance of Scripture, and then He leaves. Matthew 21:17, “He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and he lodged there.”
Jesus has made a very clear statement to the inhabitants of Jerusalem: the Messiah is here. You have one of two options: accept Me as the Messiah or reject Me as the Messiah.
That’s the question for every person is to trust in Christ as Savior or not—that’s the most important issue anybody will ever address.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to reflect upon this event, this cleansing of the temple, and understand its application for us as believers in terms of confession of sin, but we also recognize that Jesus makes a claim.
That despite what many liberals and others say about Jesus in our world: that He never claimed to be God, that He never made these claims. He clearly did, and He makes a claim that He is God, He is the Creator of the universe.
He has authority over everything in the universe because He is fully God, and that this is a claim every person needs to confront. Either reject Him and be hostile to the truth or accept Him as the One who has come and has died for our sins—paid that penalty that we can have eternal life—not by being good in and of ourselves, but by simply trusting in Him, receiving His righteousness as ours and being declared justified because of what we have in Him.
Father, we pray that if there is anyone listening today that they would recognize their need to be saved, to trust in Christ as Savior, and they would believe and accept Him as the Savior who died on the Cross for their sins, was buried on the third day, and rose from the dead.
Father, we pray that You would help us to understand these truths, that we may be able to communicate them to others, and that we may have a desire to see others understand and respond to the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We pray this in His precious name. Amen”