Be that all as it may be, this story reminds us once again, that ours is a Saviour that you don't mess around with ... does He love these people whose tables He's throwing over ... of course He does ... He loves everyone and He dies for them. But our Lord, although He is very patient, longsuffering ... He does not put up with nonsense ... these people were mocking God with their behaviour, persistently ignoring some of the most elementary moral claims that God had on their lives as His people, so, eventually He comes, with his whip.
They might have got away with it if this was the market place ... but it was the Temple. When we mock God in the very places where we we worship Him ... if we mock God in His church ... God does eventually bring judgement. George Whitfield, who many call England's greatest evangelical preacher, said: "The sins of the church are more offensive to God than the sins of the nation."
And the religious leaders and Temple authorities had turned the Temple into a racket which fleeced the poor. The Temple and the priesthood got rich, which in itself is not a sin, but to get rich at the expense of the poor, that, throughout the Scriptures, is a different matter, and one which always places you under the wrath and judgement of God. But, confronting a religious leadership who have lost their way is often a very dangerous business, but it's never one that Jesus, or the prophets before Him or after Him have shied away from. Right at the start of His ministry we see that Jesus didn't come to make friends and influence people so much as He came to proclaim and inaugurate a Kingdom ... and from the very start, that proclamation would make far more enemies than it would ever make converts and disciples.
That's what's happening in this story of Jesus clearing out the Temple. Jesus is on a collision course with sin and sinners. He has called for repentance and the general rule of repentance is: private sin requires private confession and repentance; public sin requires public confession and repentance. Confession and repentance is all that will prevent the collision between Jesus and the sinner. In the context of the folk at the Temple, Jesus has been warning His fellow Jews since the start of His ministry, that God's kingdom is coming. But they, for the most part, have preferred their own ideas about what salvation is, their own agendas regarding what a king and Messiah will look like. They have been speeding on their way, continuing in their particular path of mocking God. Within Jewish society, the rich have been getting richer, and the poor poorer. The self-appointed religious watch dogs have been concentrating on the outward rules and purity regulations rather than the heart. The Temple itself, the place where heaven and earth were supposed to meet, where God's forgiveness was supposed to happen, has been turned into a market place. They've ignored the warning signs and are heading straight for a sharp bend ... where, coming the other way, is Jesus.
Jesus has been announcing that this was the time for God to become king ... that’s what the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is all about. What's more, He had been making it happen - bringing God's fresh rule of healing and restoration to broken lives, families, households. He has been in person the place where heaven and earth meet, where forgiveness and all that goes with it have happened. And now He's come to Jerusalem, on a collision course with the Temple, granted what it has become. The place won't be big enough for both of them, something will have to give. At the end of the gospels we see the outcome of Jesus action ... and that outcome is that another whip is raised, this time onto the back of Jesus.
In Lent, more than other times of the year, we focus on ... Who's winning in your life? God's way or your way ... Jesus or you ... the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of this world? There isn't room in any of our lives for both, because they move in opposite directions, God's will and your will, and the end result of that is always messy.
Therefore, Jesus, because of His deep love for us, comes to the temple, which is you and me, not always with a whip, in fact very seldom with a whip, but come He does and cleanse He longs to do.
Do you want to be made clean?