Monday, February 28, 2011

Cleansing the Temple: Removing the "Yeast"

After the festivities had come to an end in Cana, Jesus and His disciples went back to their quiet living. Capernaum was the district where James, John, Peter and Andrew all had their homes. This time period actually represents several months between the wedding at Cana and the Passover. The disciples had gone back to their fishing business and John the Baptist was becoming increasingly opposed by Herod.

At some point during this time Jesus again called the disciples to Him, and they made their way together up to Jerusalem because the Passover was near. John linked these two stories together because of the way Jesus was displaying His glory and His authority to His disciples in an experiential way.

There were three feasts every year in which all Jews were expected to attend in Jerusalem, and the biggest was Passover.

Temple Tax: Money changers would set up their booths in every outlying town a month ahead of time to collect the yearly, mandatory temple tax of half a temple shekel from every grown man. Since only temple money was accepted, everyone had to exchange their money with these money changers at the rate of fifty percent to the value of the coin. Failure to pay could mean a fine or even imprisonment.

Two weeks before Passover the money changers would all take their booths up to Jerusalem, because by now all the pilgrims were heading that way.

Mandatory Sacrifices: Worshipers would also have to buy all their animals for the mandatory sacrifices. They could bring their own animals, of course, but getting them inspected by the Levites would cost a certain fee, and usually the animals were deemed defective, which meant they’d have to buy an animal from the temple anyway – at a big price hike, and only using temple currency.

Ancient historians record that the temple market and money changing had all started out as a ministry to help the worshipers who came from far away. But it had changed into a ruthless business venture belonging to the high priests’ extended family, who were Sadducees.

Originally the open market had been set up in the hill area surrounding the temple, but had eventually crept into the temple itself, into the Court of the Gentiles.

The outer court was the only place where the Gentiles could worship God. There was a death penalty for a Gentile to cross into the inner courts reserved for Jews only.

Imagine the hawking and stench, the straw and manure, the droves of animals, cages full of birds and all the haggling over the money exchange. Imagine the crush of people jostling and elbowing their way from booth to booth, shepherds herding flocks in and out, families struggling to keep their children in tow, hauling their travel bags and now leading their sacrificial animals away.

How could any Gentile worship in that roiling din? Where would they have even found a place to kneel and pray, or lift their hands and voices in supplication to God?

All throughout Jerusalem every household was cleaning the yeast from every room, according to God’s Law concerning Passover. Every household had to be clean. Ironically, at every Passover, only God’s house was unclean. The Lord Jesus had been going to the temple every year since He was a boy. He wasn’t suddenly offended. He had been holding in His offense until His time had come.

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