Jesus Clears the Temple of Money Changers
Bible Story Summary
by Jack Zavada
Updated February 12, 2017
Accounts of Jesus driving the money changers from the Temple are found in Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-46; and John 2:13-17.
Jesus Drives the Money Changers From the Temple - Story Summary:
Jesus Christ and his disciples journeyed to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover. They found the sacred city of God overflowing with thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the world.
Entering the Temple, Jesus saw the money changers, along with merchants who were selling animals for sacrifice. Pilgrims carried coins from their hometowns, most bearing the images of Roman emperors or Greek gods, which Temple authorities considered idolatrous.
The high priest ordered that only Tyrian shekels would be accepted for the annual half-shekel Temple tax because they contained a higher percentage of silver, so the money changers exchanged unacceptable coins for these shekels. Of course, they extracted a profit, sometimes much more than the law allowed.
Jesus was so filled with anger at the desecration of the holy place that he took some cords and wove them into a small whip. He ran about, knocking over the tables of the money changers, spilling coins on the ground. He drove the exchangers out of the area, along with the men selling pigeons and cattle. He also prevented people from using the court as a shortcut.
As he cleansed the Temple of greed and profit, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56:7: "My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers." (Matthew 21:13, ESV)
The disciples and others present were in awe of Jesus' authority in God's sacred place. His followers remembered a passage from Psalm 69:9: "Zeal for your house will consume me." (John 2:17, ESV)
The common people were impressed by Jesus' teaching, but the chief priests and scribes feared him because of his popularity. They began to plot a way to destroy Jesus.
Points of Interest from the Story:
- Jesus drove out the money changers from the Temple on Monday of Passion Week, just three days before the Passover and four days before his crucifixion.
- Bible scholars think this incident happened at Solomon's Porch, the outermost part on the east side of the Temple. Archaeologists have found a Greek inscription dated to 20 B.C. from the Court of the Gentiles, which warns non-Jews not to go any further into the Temple, on fear of death.
- The high priest received a percentage of the profit from the money changers and merchants, so their removal from the Temple precinct would have caused a financial loss to him. Because pilgrims were unfamiliar with Jerusalem, the Temple merchants sold sacrificial animals at a higher price than elsewhere in the city. The high priest overlooked their dishonesty, as long as he got his share.
- Beside his anger at the money changers' greed, Jesus hated the noise and commotion in the court, which would have made it impossible for devout Gentiles to pray there.
- About 40 years from the time Jesus cleansed the Temple, the Romans would invade Jerusalem during an uprising and level the building completely. It would never be rebuilt. Today on its location on the Temple Mount stands the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim mosque.
- The Gospels tell us that Jesus Christ was ushering in a new covenant with humanity, in which animal sacrifice would end, replaced by the perfect sacrifice of his life on the cross, atoning for human sin once and for all.