Let's look to Matthew 21 for another event with the Lord Jesus Christ in the week in which He was crucified. Our text today is on Tuesday, the day after His coronation, His entry into Jerusalem. Monday, He had entered into Jerusalem to the cries of "Hosanna, to the Son of David, Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest," as tens of thousands of people hailed Him as the King, Messiah and Savior.
The procession on Monday went through the gate into the city of Jerusalem and the procession ended at the temple. Mark 11:11 tells us that Jesus came in that procession to the temple and then He returned to Bethany to spend the night with Mary, Martha, Lazarus and the twelve disciples. It is now Tuesday morning where He goes right back to the temple. And in Matthew 21:12-17, we find out what happened when He arrived there.
One of the places in the city that was most crowded was the temple. All week long they are coming to see it, coming there to pray, coming into the court of the women to put their offerings in trumpet-shaped receptacles that hung on the walls, coming with sacrifices and offerings of all kinds to give to God to seek cleansing from their sin. And it is to the temple that Jesus comes and shows us one of the most amazing scenes of this last week of His life.
Now as we approach verses 12 to 17, which is the temple encounter, look at it as the presentation of Jesus' Messianic credentials. And just to be sure that they have not missed His message, He enters into the temple and demonstrates to them again the nature of His kingship and of His Kingdom. And it is a far greater demonstration then was His lowly inauguration. First of all, He showed He was on a divine mission. And that is clear in the first statement of Matthew 21:12, "Then Jesus went into the temple of God."
He was on a divine mission, because that was His Father’s home, you understand that? You see, the temple is the issue, not Rome. And the Messiah did not come in His first coming to solve those militarily, politically, socially, economically problems, although He will in His Second Coming. But before He comes as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to establish His own eternal Kingdom, He first must come and be received by men in their own hearts. So He must come first as the Savior before He could come as the glorious King in His Kingdom.
Jesus is concerned with the people's relation to God. And this ought to be clear to anyone because when Jesus came the first time to Jerusalem, this is exactly where He went also. And in John 2:13-17, we will find that He began His ministry at Passover. And now the Jewish Passover was at hand. So Jesus went to Jerusalem and found in the temple those people that sold oxen, sheep and doves with money changers everywhere.
And after He made a whip of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple including the sheep and the oxen and He poured out the changers money and overthrew their tables and said to them that sold doves, "It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” He was concerned with how people worshiped. He was concerned with their relationship to God, not their relationship to an earthly kingdom.
And so by going to the temple as the first act after His inauguration, He is identifying for us clearly His mission territory. Three years had not changed that purpose. He goes right back to the temple, even though He had passed and seen many things inconsistent with God's design and God's will. The priority thing is the relationship between men and God, for only when men are right with God can men be right with other men.
The measure of any society is their relation to God. Read Romans 1, worship is always the issue. The problem with society is not that it has bad laws or that it has human inequities. The problem with society is that it has abandoned God. And some would accuse us of being indifferent to the national political issues, indifferent to the social issues but that is not true. We know what Jesus knew and what Peter reiterated, that judgment must begin at the house of God.
The issue was not whether they reacted rightly, the issue was that they should see the holiness of God. It demonstrated His vengeance against sin and the desecration and blasphemy of false religion. When Jesus cleansed the temple, we realize there never was real reform, there was no real renewal, but that doesn't mean He shouldn't come. He should come because God must reveal how He feels about false religion. He must show clearly and unforgettably how He feels about people who treat Him in an unholy way.
The temple is the focal point of all of the people there. And as Jesus comes He faces the outer wall of columns that surrounds the whole temple area. Through the main opening, He enters into the Court of the Gentiles where anybody could come in. Inside there would be a gate called, "The Gate Beautiful." And inside that was the Court of the Women for the Jews only. In fact, there was a sign by the Gate Beautiful that said if a Gentile dared to go in there, he would be killed.
There was a massive gate in the Court of the Women made out of Corinthian bronze that took 20 men to open. And inside that gate, there is the Court of the Israelites where only men could go in to give their offerings. They would take the sheep or the turtledove, or their grain offering and prepare it there and then take it to another gate which went into the Court of the Priests where the burnt offering altar was, the altar of incense.
And they could look through that opening as they handed the priests their sacrifice as he took it in and offered it. From the Court of the Priests there was another little door that entered into a 600 square foot courtyard, at the back of which was what was called the holy place. It was a small little building which included in it the holy place and the Holy of Holies where the ark of the covenant was, separated by a veil into which the high priest could enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement.
Now Jesus was standing in the Court of the Gentiles where the Jews felt if Gentiles could be there, so could anything else. It was known in those days as the bazaar of Annas, the high priest, a corrupt man who saw the temple as a way to get power and wealth. He had this great idea where He and his priests would sell concessions. In other words, you could rent space in the Court of the Gentiles to sell sheep, lambs, doves, pigeons, oil, wine, salt and exchange your money and the other pre-requisites that go along with sacrifices.
When you finally got into the Court of the Israelites, every offering that you were going to give had to be approved. And if you bought it outside the temple, it was not going to be approved, you must purchase your offering in the Court of the Gentiles. According to Edersheim, the great Jewish historian, you would often have to pay ten times the value of that offering. So you were extorted.
Poor people, according to Levitical law, did not have to bring a lamb because they couldn't afford a lamb, so they were allowed to offer a dove instead. Most historians feel that in today's currency, a couple of birds might be worth a half shekel. But if you wanted to exchange your money, because you had to have exactly a half shekel, because you only had foreign currency, you would pay a twenty-five percent fee just to make small change.
But this is Jesus' home because this is the house of God. And it has been turned into a den of robbers. Christ came first of all to deal with men on a spiritual level. That's the point. He came to throw out corrupt worship to bring in true worship. Second point, He has divine authority. If we cannot see that He is the Messiah because of His mission, we ought to see that He is the Messiah because of His authority.
Now the high priest was a powerful man. And the one who was the head of the temple police was also powerful. And then you had many orders of priests that had influence. And if you walked through the Gate Beautiful, for example and you were a Gentile, the Romans had given them the right to kill you. So they had great authority and power within the walls of that temple precinct area.
But they were about to meet Jesus who was so much more powerful. It says in verse 12, "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.” Those kinds of people, those extortionists, those money hungry people want to hang on to their money and their business at all cost. And the priests didn't want to be shamed and lose face in front of all those people. Now if you think Jesus is just some meek and lowly gentle person, maybe you ought to study this a little more deeply.
The last thing that the priests would have liked to see would have been to be shamed in the eyes of the people there by some would-be Messiah, but that's exactly what happened. It simply says, "He cast out all them that sold and bought," just threw them all out. Not only the sellers but the buyers, too. He just threw everybody out of there that was involved in that enterprise. And the leaders, they could not stop Him. They did not have the power.
"How did He do it?" It doesn't say, maybe it was just His word, “OUT." That got Lazarus out of the grave. That also spoke the worlds into existence when creation occurred. So He could have done it with His word, but there was more than that because it also says He overthrew the tables of the moneychangers. He went through the place and started flipping tables over. He demonstrates not only His authority, but His physical presence as well.
And then it says in Mark 11:16 that Jesus wouldn't allow anybody to carry any vessel through the temple. They apparently were using the temple area just like any other public street and He just stopped that immediately. It may also imply that nobody carried anything out of there. That they were thrown out and had to leave all their stuff behind. Now if you can get all those people to split and run and leave everything behind, they must be scared.
And later on in Matthew 21:23, the chief priest said, "By what authority do You do these things? What a dumb question, as if He needed any other authority. They should have known by what authority. So blind were they. Even in the Protestant churches, we have false teachers of the Word of God who are in it for the money. And we cry out for Christ to cleanse our churches today as He did clean the temple then, Amen?
There's a third credential that I want you to see. He not only showed He was on a divine mission and demonstrated divine authority, but He revealed a commitment to Scripture. He vindicates what He does by this in verse 13, "He said to them, “It is written." And then He quotes Isaiah 56:7, "My house shall be called a house of prayer." And Isaiah adds and Mark also includes, "Of all nations." Matthew leaves it out because his audience is primarily Jewish.
See, the temple was to be a place of prayer. It was to be a quiet place, a place of worship, a place of prayer, a place of meditation, a place of contemplation, a place of confession, a place of praise, a place where people went to commune with God, to seek God, to open their hearts to God. Not to be a business, not a stockyard, not a thoroughfare for people carrying on their worldly business. And He continuous in verse 13, "But you have made it a den of thieves," another Old Testament quote from Jeremiah 7:11.
There's a fourth thing I want you to see. We also see Him as the Messiah because of His divine compassion. And in that moment verse 14 comes beautifully to us, "Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them." And they always hung around the temple because that is where God was and that is where the people were and they needed to beg from the people so that was the best place to be.
The compassion of God in Christ is seen in His healing ministry. One of the reasons there are ill people and disabled people is so that God in His mercy can dispense to them His compassion and thus reveal that element of His person. The Pharisees did not care about those people. They were making money off the poor, they abused the poor and despised them. But not Christ, God is compassionate. Jesus says in Matthew 11:4-5, "You go tell John that the blind see, the deaf hear and the lame walk, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them."
Do you know that that is the truest kind of worship? True worship is in the name of the Lord meeting the need of someone, that is a far greater worship than a sacrifice, is it not? Verse 15, “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.” How could they be displeased? Because they could care less about the crippled and the blind. And a compassionate person intimidates an uncompassionate person. So they were intimidated, angry, resentful and jealous.
One other credential was positive, Jesus accepted divine worship. And in verse 15, in the middle it says “the children." The leaders of Israel may not have known who He was but it was pretty clear to the kids. Have you ever met an atheist kid? I never met one. They believe the evidence. They had just seen somebody throw out all of the corrupt and evil people in the temple. It was pretty clear to them shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David."
The priests and scribes said to Him in verse 16, "Do you hear what these are saying?" They wanted those children to stop, that's blasphemy. You can't worship this man in the temple of God. So they could sell cattle at an exorbitant price, cheat people out of their money, do all the rest of the stuff but you couldn't worship the Messiah there? That shows you where they were spiritually.
Remember in Luke 19:39-40 of the coronation day, the triumphal entry, the chief priests came and said, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." And Jesus said to them in verse 40, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." Here He says the same thing, He quotes Psalm 8:2 in verse 16, “And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?”
If God will not be praised out of the mouths of the mature, He will be praised out of the mouths of the immature. God is going to get His praise to His Son, even if the stones have to cry out, as Luke 19:40 said. He just alludes to that Psalm as an illustration of what is happening. What a glorious event. And the fury of those leaders was simply because of their unbelief. All the evidence was in, even little children could see it.
One other thing that proves He was the Messiah is this, He was rejected. Verse 17 says, "Then He left them." And in that simple physical act, there was a volume of truth. “He left them, went out of the city to Bethany and He lodged there.” He had nothing more to say. It's reminiscent of Genesis 6 where the Bible says God's Spirit will not always strive with man. There comes a time when He leaves.
How about you, are you still with Him? Since we all need to grow to become more like Him, let me aks you, are you too on a divine mission for God? Does it hurt in your heart when you see a lot of sin in the world and even in the church? Do you have a commitment to Scripture just like Jesus? Are you learning to have compassion on others like Jesus had? And do you understand that you will often be rejected just like Jesus? Let's bow in prayer.