After He entered Jerusalem Jesus went to the temple area. As the center of Jewish life, it only made sense for him to go there. No doubt many expected him to make his claim for the throne of his father David there as well. But that isn’t what Jesus did…
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons; 16 and he would not allow any one to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he taught, and said to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and sought a way to destroy him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.
This is not, however, the first time that the temple area had been cleansed. Back in the days of the Kingdom of Judah, before the Babylonian captivity, another son of David entered the temple area to cleanse it of its evil. In this instance it was King Josiah:
4 And the king commanded Hilki′ah, the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Ba′al, for Ashe′rah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. 5 And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Ba′al, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. 6 And he brought out the Ashe′rah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. 7 And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Ashe′rah.
(2 Kings 23:4-7)
This was a shocking passage when I re-read it a few months ago. The notion of prostitution going on inside the temple area, the “House of the Lord”, is in some respects unbelievable. And yet, is it really all that hard to imagine? Perversion of proper worship of the Lord will invariably lead in that direction, and so it should be no surprise that it ended up happening. What got me thinking is how what is going on nowadays in many churches isn’t far off from what happened back then. As far as I can tell, the only real difference between then and now is that back then the idolaters weren’t hiding their activities. Such openness of sin isn’t the norm right now. At least, not yet….