We are again in Jerusalem, and it is a much larger, grander city than it was in the time of David. The temple is much larger and grander than the temple that Solomon built. There were open courts about the temple, and in the outer courts many people gathered, especially at the three great feasts of the year: the feast of the Passover in the spring, at the time that we celebrate Easter; the feast of first fruits fifty days later; and the feast of tabernacles, a thanksgiving feast in the autumn. There was only one temple and the people came to the feasts from all parts of the land and from distant lands. The Lord's visits to Jerusalem were usually at the feast times, when He could teach and heal many people.
It was now the time for the Passover, and the Lord came from Galilee. Many people were coming, and as they neared Jerusalem the roads were full of joyful pilgrims. When the Lord came to the temple, what did He find? In the large outer court many men were selling oxen and sheep and doves, which people would need for their offerings. At the Passover every family would need a lamb for the sacred feast, and there were money-changers there to change other kinds of money that people brought and give them the special coin, the half-shekel, which each one should pay to the temple. It was like a noisy market. They were charging large prices, much more than was right. At another time the Lord said that they made the temple a den of thieves. The Lord drove them out of the temple. The priests were angry because the Lord did this and told them that they should not use the temple so.
It would be a good plan to look at a map today. Do you see Nazareth, and Cana, and Capernaum? It was to Capernaum that the Lord and His disciples, His mother and His brethren, came after the marriage in Cana. But they did not stay many days, for it was near the time for the feast of the Passover, and for this feast everyone who could must go up to Jerusalem, and Jerusalem you see is far away in Judea.
The Jerusalem which we read of in the Gospels is the same which we learned of in the days of David and Solomon, but now a very much larger, grander city. Where Solomon's temple, had stood was now the great temple built by Herod for the Jews, shining with gold and marble. In our lesson it says, "Forty and six years was this temple in building," and it was not yet finished.
Many years ago, when the Lord was twelve years old, we learn of His going to Jerusalem to the feast of the Passover with His parents. (Luke 2:41-50) It was in the spring, in the month corresponding to the latter part of March and the first part of April, that this feast was held in memory of the night that the angel passed over the houses of the Israelites, when the firstborn in each house of the Egyptians died. Can you tell about it? (Much of interest might be told the children from Exodus 13:1-32. Read verses 26 and 27.) It was a most beautiful time of the year; the hillsides were covered with flowers, the wheat was just coming into ear, the birds were singing in the glad spring sunshine, and everyone who could was traveling to Jerusalem. For Jerusalem was the largest city of the land, and here the wonderful temple stood. It is a beautiful picture as we can think of it, the people in their gay colored clothes all winding their way along the narrow paths over the flower-covered hills to Jerusalem. They had no carriages or trains, but either walked or rode on the backs of horses, donkeys, mules, or camels. They were joyous companies, for it was a joyous festival.
There were many flocks of sheep and lambs driven along these paths, for every family must have its burnt offering; and it is said that one hundred thousand lambs alone were needed besides thousands of sheep and oxen. (Geikie, Vol. 1, p. 469) All the roads to Jerusalem were made ready for the hosts of pilgrims; the bridges rebuilt, the tombs by the road side were whitewashed, the springs and wells made clean. The Lord and His disciples came over one of these roads. All these many pilgrims felt a great pride in their beautiful temple, and how strong the Lord's feeling for it must have been; for He knew it to be His Father's house!
We can look with the disciples at the city Jerusalem as they came near. It was built on hills which sloped steeply down to the valleys below. The city was surrounded by a high wall, above which many fine buildings could be seen, and the beautiful temple built of glistening white marble and gold. The House of the Lord! On they came, down into the valley, up the steep hill, and through one of the gates in the wall, and through the streets to the temple itself. But what did they see? The courts of this holy temple filled with a noisy crowd buying and selling the animals for sacrifice, the pens for which were built in the court itself! Other men were sitting at tables exchanging money for the people, that each one might have the half-shekel which was required from everyone for the support of the temple. There was also other changing of foreign money, with much dishonesty too. Many doves were needed for humbler sacrifices, and these the high priest himself had had raised and sold, making much money thereby. Besides all this there was much coming and going across the temple court by people who would thus cut off a corner and save a moment's walk.
The Lord and His disciples saw this confusion as they came to the holy temple. It was His Father's house, and it was He who must make it clean again; so making a scourge of small cords, we are told, He drove out the sheep and the oxen and poured out the money of the money changers, and told those who sold doves to take them away (they were probably in cages), and said, "Make not My Father's house a house of merchandise." And the disciples remembered that it was written, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten Me up." (Psalm 69:9)
But the Jews were very angry, and wanted to know who this was who came and interfered with what they were doing; and they asked Him to show them a sign, that they might know that He had a Divine right to drive the traders out. And He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." By the "temple" He meant the temple of His body, and when we learn more of the story we shall see how it came true. And when it did come true, His disciples remembered this that the Lord had said. But the Jews thought He meant their great marble and gold temple which had been forty and six years in building, and was not then finished.
It seems from the last verses of this chapter that the Lord must have done many miracles at the feast, of which none of the Gospels tell us. But though many "believed on His name, when they saw the miracles which He did," He did not trust them, for He knew their hearts.
1. What was the Passover? Where was it kept?
2. Do you remember another time when the Lord was present at that feast?
3. What did the Lord drive out of the temple? Why did He drive them out?
4. Of what temple did the Lord speak when He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up"?
The Lord spoke of the temple of His body. The sacred building at Jerusalem where the Divine presence was felt was a type of more living temples of the Lord's presence. It was a type of heaven. It was a type of a heavenly man in whom the Lord finds a dwelling. And in the fullest sense it was a type of the Lord's own Divine Humanity in which God dwells with men in all the fullness of His power. Jesus said, "In this place is one greater than the temple" (Matthew 12:6), for He was what the temple represented. For the same reason when the Holy City was shown to John in the Revelation, he "saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." (Revelation 21:22) In the same chapter of the Revelation (verse 3) it is said of the fullness of the Divine presence in the Lord's Divine Humanity, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God." (E. 220; R. 585; A. 414)
Knowing that the temple was a type of the Lord Himself in whom the Divine love and power were present in the world, we see a significance in many things that are said of the temple both in the Old Testament and in the Gospels. "The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him." (Habakkuk 2:20) "And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them." (Matthew 21:14)
Following this line of thought, what work which the Lord was doing in Himself was represented by His driving the traders from the temple? It pictures the purifying work that He was doing, in putting out from His Humanity all selfish and evil things which hindered the full reception of the Divine life. Especially it pictures the overcoming of every thought or wish to use holy things for selfish advantage. "He drove them all out of the temple." When they asked the meaning of what the Lord did in the temple, He explained it by telling them of this work of purification and glorification in Himself which the cleansing of the temple represented. Men who were living evil lives were destroying the temple of the Divine presence in the world. The Lord was raising it up. The cleansing of the temple pictured the purifying work that we should do to make ourselves temples of the Lord; and it contains the assurance of success in the Lord's strength. (E. 840.)
"He knew what was in man." So He knows our hearts and all our thoughts. (Psalm 139) The belief which is caused by miracles is an external belief which is not deep and genuine. (E. 129-133)