In most circumstances, Jesus chose to use gentle words and peaceful measures to take care of the Father’s business. But on at least one occasion, aggressive action ruled the day.
From the time of Moses, whenever Jewish men presented themselves to the Lord at the Temple, they were instructed to offer a half-shekel of silver. Exodus 30:13 records: “This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary.” When Moses issued this decree, the Israelites were a single, cohesive unit that traded with the same form of money. However, that changed as the years passed and the Jews found themselves dispersed into other countries (such as Babylon, Assyria, and Phrygia). Naturally, those Jews who lived in foreign nations began to use as legal tender the money of the country in which they dwelt.
This posed a problem for them when they wanted to present themselves to the Lord at the Temple, because the Law said that they were to present a half-shekel of silver. The priest of the Temple would accept no foreign currency into the sacred treasury. Therefore, greedy moneychangers posted themselves in the court of the temple in order to offer their services. They would exchange foreign currency for a Jewish half-shekel, but in doing so they routinely exacted an exorbitant “commission” on the deal. What was a foreign Jew to do? Where else could he obtain a Jewish half-shekel except in Jerusalem? The moneychangers had a virtual monopoly. Basically, nobody could come to God unless he first went through the moneychangers.
As if that were not bad enough, the moneychangers and Temple brokers also had a monopoly on the sale of livestock suitable for offering to the Lord. Since many of the worshipers who visited the Temple lived so far away, they would purchase livestock at or near the Temple, rather than trying to bring animals on the trip with them. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were in for a rude awakening because the acceptable livestock was priced outrageously high. They had no choice but to pay the prices, however, since returning home without sacrificing to God was not an option. Once again, the moneychangers and traders came between God and His worshipers.
Upon this scene of fraud and abuse, the Lion of Judah came roaring. In John 2:14-17, the story is told of Jesus experiencing righteous indignation. He formed a whip of cords and reeked havoc on the moneychangers, overturning their tables, pouring out their money, and driving them and their livestock out of the Temple.
Anger and wrath enter the lives of every one of us. But let us learn from Jesus to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath” (James 1:19). Let us also learn that there is a time for righteous indignation. When there are those who stand between God and the true worship that is due Him—whether it be through false doctrine, hypocrisy, or any other vice—let us remember the example of the Lord and “be angry, yet sin not” (Ephesians 4:26).
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