On the Monday of Holy Week, Jesus asserted His authority in the temple.
If Jerusalem was a beehive, with His triumphal entry the day before, Jesus hit it with a stick. You could hear the buzz grow as the anger within the religious leadership got organized. With that kingly arrival on Sunday, Jesus had made a strong declaration about His authority over all the conventions of man.
On Monday He returned for more, this time to declare the failure of His own people to live up to the covenantal mandate God had given them to be a blessing to the world (Matthew 21:12-13).
Much of what the Gospels tell us about Monday centers on the theme of Jesus’ authority—both over the created world and in His right to pass judgment upon it. Everything Jesus did He did with authority.
So when He woke His disciples Monday saying He wanted go back into Jerusalem to teach in the temple, as risky as it sounded, it wasn’t surprising. But everyone sensed something stirring, as if Jesus had rounded a corner and His end was coming fast. He was a marked man.
When Jesus saw the commotion, commerce, and chaos going on in the temple, He was indignant. The way the Sanhedrin led Israel was not how God’s people were supposed to be led. The temple was a sacred space, and worship was a holy matter. The propriety and dignity of approaching the presence of God had found an advocate in this visiting rabbi. And so, on the Monday before His crucifixion, Jesus went into the temple and overturned the money changers’ tables (Mark 11:15-19).
This was not the first time Jesus had done this. He had cleared the temple like this once earlier, back before anyone knew His name. Then He had warned the merchants to remove the money-changers’ tables and stop making His Father’s house into a den of thieves (John 2:13-17).
If the first time Jesus cleared the temple served as a warning; this time it served as a judgment. This was not an eruption of sudden anger. Jesus saw nothing on that Monday He hadn’t seen many other times. He had even stood in this very place as recently as the day before, so nothing He saw came as a surprise. Jesus simply did what He planned to do.
Jesus’ provocative actions in overturning the money changers’ tables spoke to His deep concern for the way God’s people had traded the work of loving God for a religion of economy. And ever since, He remains involved in the provocative work of overturning idolatrous hearts, calling them back to the dignity and sanctity for which they were intended.
written by Russ Ramsey
adapted from Behold the King of Glory