Chapter 10.1 Zeal for God's House
Zeal for God’s House, composite digital image by L. Lovett, 2006
Zeal for God’s House, composite digital image by L. Lovett, 2006 (CLICK on the image above for a LARGER version)

It was early April, and Christ’s first Passover as Messiah was at hand. One week before the feast began, he left Galilee with his six disciples and journeyed to Jerusalem with other joyful travelers who joined them along the way. As they entered the gates of the Holy City, the narrow streets were packed with people preparing for the festivities and it was difficult move about. Zebedee, the father of John and James, also had a business in Jerusalem supplying rich men with fish, including the high priest. His sons knew Jerusalem well and took Jesus to their father’s house to lodge there.

As soon as the courtesy of a guest allowed, the Master and his disciples went straight to the Temple. They entered the Court of Gentiles with its colonnades all around the outer walls and benches for prayer or conference. This large public area completely surrounded the sacred Jewish inner courts of the Temple. All Jews and priests had to pass through this outer court to reach the most holy places.

Things had changed dramatically from Jesus’ first visit as a boy of twelve. What had been a simple service for pilgrims to purchase Temple offerings had now grown into a corrupt bazaar. This public outer court was a profane marketplace with all kinds of merchandising of Temple goods. His joy at being once more in his Father’s house turned to flaming anger.

Those in the business of selling oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as moneychangers at their tables were everywhere. Buyers and sellers were tightly packed together, and the noise and stench were overpowering. It was a giant market of sacrificial animals for Jewish rituals, and money changers who converted Roman money into sacred coins to pay the Temple tax. This tribute produced vast revenue for the bankers and the Temple treasury, with pilgrims at the mercy of the profiteers.

Court officials, leaders of the people, former high priest Annas, and current high priest Caiaphas became extremely wealthy from their share in Temple trade, while they preached their version of God’s Law to justify their actions. No one dared to say anything against them, fearing their power of excommunication. From the unrighteous traffic carried on in these bazaars and the greed of their owners, the Temple market was most unpopular with pilgrims and the poor. How utterly the spirit of the Law was violated.

God’s Son could no longer tolerate what was happening in the Temple's outer court. He saw it as a desecration of all that was holy, and now he had the power and authority to do something about it. His first and last public acts as Messiah were purifications of the fountainhead of Israel’s spiritual life.

Fresh from his victory over the devil, Christ now attacked the corruption of the Jewish leaders. He made a crude whip of twisted rushes and drove out the sellers and their animals. Next he brushed the money off the tables and overturned them, scattering the coins and tables. All of it was an abomination to his Father’s house. With his face glowing in righteous indignation, he pointed at them with the finger of God as he shouted above the noise, “Get these things out of here! Stop using my Father’s house for a marketplace! Scriptures declare ‘My Temple will be called a place of prayer for all nations,’ but you have made it a den of thieves!” If any of them looked at his face, they saw the fire of God’s holiness and dared not look again.

As he went around the huge court, the tall Rabbi flashed among them with the dreadful scourge, and the still more horrifying voice like the trumpet of an avenging angel rang in their ears. In fear, they turned away and fled. He rebuked them all, yet none is injured and nothing is lost.

He was the Son of God. No prophet even dared to call the Temple or Tabernacle his Father’s house—a startling expression of deity. He went about his Father’s business in the most elementary manner and the court was cleared. Temple guards were there but they did not attempt to stop him.

Response from the Jewish leaders was not direct, but in the form of questions, “What sign can you show to justify your action?”

“Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up again,” Jesus prophesied.

“It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple,” the leaders scoffed. “Are you going to raise it up again in three days?”

The Temple he was speaking of was his body, but they could not relate it to their own prophecies. After Christ’s resurrection, his disciples recalled what he had said, and they believed the scripture and the words he had spoken.

By evening of that day the whole city was blazing and humming with the story of what had happened. In the house of the high priest and in all the houses of the Sanhedrin there was anxious consultation. Who was this terrifying young man who had fallen on them like a star from heaven? Obviously very dangerous, the type to raise a rebellion and cause serious disturbance to their leadership. They could do nothing at present, for they were in a very weak position; the whole city knew Jesus had protested against a great wrong, and with superb courage. Leaders of the Sanhedrin could do nothing but watch him, and wait.

The Lord’s disciples were awed and a little afraid. As they watched him silently, they did in some measure understand his words and actions, recalling the sixty-ninth Psalm, “Zeal for your house burns within me.” There had been no human witnesses to Christ’s battle with the devil, so for them this was the first revelation of the steel within the gentleness that had so enchanted them through those first days in Galilee. Now they knew there was a terrible swift sword in that holy scabbard.

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