You can read about Jesus cleansing the temple in Mt. 21:12-13, Mk: 11:15-18, and Lk. 19:45-48. Also read Is. 56:7 and Jer. 7:11 for the prophetic back-story. I encourage you to pause now and read each of these passages now before finishing this devotion.
Jesus’ second day in Jerusalem was as eventful as his first. According to scripture and tradition, Monday of Passion week was when Jesus cleansed the temple. If entering Jerusalem like a king drew the attention of political powers of Jerusalem, then entering the temple like a tornado with a bullwhip certainly drew the attention and hatred of the religious leaders in the city.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all note that the religious leaders wanted to “destroy” Jesus. Why? Well only because Jesus accused them of polluting the most sacred religious site and symbol of their nation through “outright low-down thievery.” It seems as if the visiting Passover participants were being overcharged for both sacrifices and exchanging currency to buy the birds and animals for sacrifices. There are also many current bible commentaries that point out that the place where the swindlers were set up had been set-aside for Gentiles to worship thus practically preventing “all nations” from participating in Yahweh worship. Regardless, Jesus was definitely passionate about what had become of “his father’s house.” The selling of animals and exchanging of money had not upset Jesus, rather it was that these necessary procedures had become opportunity for profit. The Jewish leaders were not only guilty of larceny but “larceny of the heart” which was the most important issue to God. We know this because the historical and biblical context of Jesus’ words, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” and “But you have made it a den of thieves” would not have created positive images in the minds of the scribes and Pharisees who knew the scriptures. His message was clear — whenever God is not the focus of worship in the heart of authentic worshippers, priorities get out of whack and God’s heart for all nations is missed!
The lesson for us is relevant and practical. Fortunately, we do not need the sacrifice of animals for the forgiveness of sins since Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice on the Friday of Passion Week, but Yahweh worship is still primary. And God’s heart for the nations is still primary. When we consider that our worship is not relegated to an our Sunday but encompasses our careers, finances, marriages, parenting, school, and even our hobbies the list of distractions and opportunities for “larceny of the heart” are extensive. It is imperative then that we take today and ask God to bring to our attention all the things that distract us from focusing solely on the him, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when we worship(live) and consider how often our prayers go beyond the vision of ourselves, our families, or our communities.