2. Jesus entered the temple and drove out the buyers and sellers. That may seem rude until you realize that the sellers were occupying the space which was meant to be for Gentile worshipers of God from other nations. The Jews were chosen to be God's people, not so that they could keep it to themselves, but so that they could bring the news about salvation through the Messiah to all the nations. How could people from other nations draw near to hear of the true God if these merchants were selling there? Also, at least some of the sellers were cheating the people with unfair prices and exchanges of currencies. Most importantly, the temple was meant to be a house of prayer, not a marketplace. When people objected to his action of clearing the temple court, Jesus reminded them that the Scriptures said that the temple was supposed to be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:6-7), and that their dishonest actions were fulfilling what Jeremiah 7:11 said was the offense of making the temple into a den of robbers. The 'den of robbers' imagery was not only about the cheating going on there. The NIV Study Bible notes on this verse indicate that, just as robbers trusted in their den as a place of safety, some of the religious leaders trusted in their association with the temple to keep them safe, despite their sins. Jesus' words are a warning to these religious leaders that since Jesus had given them ample evidence that He was the Messiah, their continued rejection of His claims and their plans to kill him (Matthew 12:14) would not be overlooked just because they had this professional connection with the temple.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me be quick to note that I am not blaming the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus chose to die for the sins of the world. Jews and Gentiles alike are sinners in need of a Savior. Several passages in Scripture make it clear that no one could force Jesus to do anything. Some of my favorite ones are these:
I especially like that last passage in John 18, because it shows who really was in charge of the events which were taking place. The crowd was armed with swords and clubs, but Jesus was in charge of the situation. Their falling on the ground after his announcement is a nice touch, too. There had been a sense of majestic dignity in his words. In the gospel of John, there are many times where Jesus uses these words "I am." to describe himself. (See John 6:35; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 10:7,9; John 10:11,14; John 11:25; John 14:6; John 18:4-6) The NIV Study Bible notes that in the Greek language, these words are solemnly emphatic and echo Exodus 3:14:
I do not think that it is an accident that Jesus uses these same words here.
There is much more to be said on these matters, but these are some of the thoughts which occupied my mind during the weeks between Palm Sunday and Easter/Resurrection Sunday.