On the Monday after His Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and before His sadistic Crucifixion on Good Friday, the Lord Jesus Christ did something, for the second time, that outraged the corrupt Jewish leaders of the day; He cleansed the outer court of the temple.
We take these words from Matthew describing the event:
“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
“And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12-13).
Mark also recorded the event and added crucial details about officialdom’s murderous reaction:
“And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;
“And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple.
“And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves.
“And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine” (Mark 11:15-18).
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He commanded us to love one another, to love our enemies, and to pray for those who treat us badly and persecute us. He turned the other cheek to abusers. He enjoined His disciples to be peacemakers and to proclaim peace. However, this same Lord was a Man of passion, a defender of righteousness, and a zealot for truth.
Passivity has never been a characteristic of Jesus Christ nor of His Gospel. Compliance with error and evil is not in His playbook. Blind obedience to authority was not something He preached or exemplified.
Rather, the Lord called the authority figures of His day “vipers,” “liars,” “hypocrites,” and “children of hell.” He snubbed them, disobeyed their orders, broke their traditions, taught His disciples to not follow their example, and was constantly at variance with not only the ecclesiastical, but political, authorities. In the end, He submitted to crucifixion not because He blindly obeyed authority, but because it was the will of our Heavenly Father and He submitted to it in faith as a little child.
The Lord’s martyrdom was necessary to complete His Atonement and provide means whereby the rest of us could receive remission of our sins and ascend with Christ to Heaven. It was, and is, the central point in the Plan of Salvation. Without the Lord’s Atonement, which required the Lamb’s pure blood to be shed to atone for sinners as a token, none of us could be saved, none of us could receive forgiveness, and none of us could escape the powers of death and hell. If not for this higher and holier purpose in His death, I submit to you that the Lord who is just and disdains evil, lies, and injustice, would have pushed back against the egregiously illegal and farcical trial which condemned Him to death.
The angry Jewish mobs had often surrounded Jesus with the intent of murdering Him. They once tried to push Him off a cliff. Other times they picked up stones to stone Him. What happened? How did He escape? The mobs didn’t have a change of heart. They didn’t simply let Him pass by to safety. Rather, the Lord exercised His supernatural power to disappear from their presence or otherwise miraculously shield Himself (Luke 4:29-30; John 8:58-59; John 10:30-39).
It’s impossible to believe that Jesus simply walked through these demon-inspired crowds wielding rocks and fury and murderous intent. Not so. The Lord performed miracles to escape from them because His time to die for the sins of the world was not yet. Thus, if it had not been His time to die on that awful and prophesied Passover, I believe the Lord would have resisted or disappeared as He had done before. He would not have tamely submitted to injustice and murderous mobs.
Modern society likes to picture Jesus as a loving, caring, tolerant, even permissive Being who accepts anyone, forgives anything, and thinks you’re “perfect just the way you are.” This depiction is at odds with the scriptures.
Jesus never tolerated sin. He never justified it. He never accepted it. The Lord always preached against evil, debauchery, adultery, wickedness, lust, evil thinking, anger, pride, envy, violence, and every other wicked act, thought, and tendency. He would be described as intolerant, hateful, a bigot, angry, and rebellious were He to live in our day. I have no hesitation in saying that modern “Christendom” would want to murder Jesus were He here among them and were He to teach the same uncompromising and strict doctrines He preached in ancient Israel.
People don’t comprehend the Lord’s character. They know little to nothing about Him and the Father. They make God in their own image, which is a corrupt, worldly, and imperfect image. They completely ignore the Lord’s doctrine that to know Him and the Father – Their real character and attributes – is eternal life, and the implication that to not know Them is damnation (John 17:3).
What follows is a keen description of the aspects of the Lord’s character that were at play when He stormed the temple and overthrew the moneychangers’ tables. President Charles W. Penrose said:
“True, Jesus Christ taught that non-resistance, was right and praiseworthy and a duty under certain circumstances and conditions; but just look at him when he went into the temple, when he made that scourge of thongs, when he turned out the money-changers and kicked over their tables and told them to get out of the house of the Lord! “My house is a house of prayer,” he said, “but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Get out of here! Hear him crying, “Woe unto you Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and then ye make him ten-fold more the child of hell than he was before.” That was the other side of the spirit of Jesus. Jesus was no milksop. He was not to be trampled under foot. He was ready to submit when the time came for his martyrdom, and he was to be nailed on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, but he was ready at any time to stand up for his rights like a man. He is not only called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” but also “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” and He will be seen to be terrible by and by to his enemies.
“Now while we are not particularly required to pattern after the “lion” side of his character unless it becomes necessary, the Lord does not expect us to submit to be trodden under foot by our enemies and never resist. The Lord does not want us to inculcate the spirit of war nor the spirit of bloodshed. In fact he has commanded us not to shed blood, but there are times and seasons, as we can find in the history of the world, in Bible and the Book of Mormon, when it is justified and right and proper and the duty of men to go forth in the defense of their homes and their families and maintain their privileges and rights by force of arms. . . .
“. . . Does the Lord permit the shedding of blood and justify it? Yes, sometimes he does. Was not the war of independence of this country justifiable? Were not the rights and privileges of the people of this land trampled under foot, and did they not rise in their might and the God of Battles strengthen their arms and they went forth to victory and brought liberty, not only to themselves and their immediate families, but to hosts of people from down-trodden Europe who are rejoicing today under the Stars and Stripes with liberty of conscience and liberty of speech and liberty of action within proper guidance and direction of righteous law. These principles are to go forth to all flesh. Don’t you forget it. The time will come when they will be carried to all the nations of the earth and they will be delivered from tyrants and oppressors” (President Charles W. Penrose, General Conference, April, 1917).
The Lord is no milksop! He was a real Man, leader, and warrior. Though perfectly humble, He was full of passion. After He cleansed the temple the first time at the beginning of His Ministry, the scriptures tell us that “his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:13-17).
Jesus was zealous. He was fervent in His faith in God the Father. He would no doubt qualify for the smears “religious nut” or “religious zealot” used so commonly today. He was a bold defender of all that was good, holy, righteous, and true. By extension, He was also undaunted in His rebuke of all that was bad, impure, and evil.
Jesus once told the Pharisee Nicodemus that one of the reasons people didn’t come to Him was because they didn’t want their sins to be exposed and rebuked. Their condemnation was rejecting the light and the truth it revealed:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
“But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:16-21).
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ can be challenging. Persecution and hatred are your constant companions. The world that loves wickedness and perversion despises those who don’t join them in their revelries. They call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). Therefore, they call those who expose evil “evil” while those who revile and reject good are held up as “good,” celebrated as “heroes,” and honored as “philanthropists.” Up is down and black is white – and all by Devilish design.
When the Lord rebuked evil spirits, He was told that He was possessed by evil spirits. When He healed others, He was smeared as unclean. When He did good, He was called a traitor. Everything He did was criticized, twisted, and mislabeled. Everything He said was discounted. Everything He stood for was rejected. That is why the Lord lamented:
“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
“Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
“That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
“Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
“Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:33-38).
The Lord didn’t shy away from the truth to spare people’s feelings. Though we should be as tactful as we can be, facts trump feelings every time. Thus, Jesus emphatically spoke the truth in total sincerity and out of the purest love. Even as He called the unbelieving Jews “vipers,” He held out His hand to them. Even as He listed their crimes and their rejection of His prophets, He said He would gather them if they would only come to Him.
When the Savior went into the temple at the beginning of His last mortal week on earth and began throwing over tables and chairs and castigating the moneychangers as “thieves” who polluted His Holy House, it was an act of love, devotion, and righteousness. Love requires discipline. It requires rules and consequences for misbehavior. It requires hard, even violent, action, at times. It requires unyielding obedience to eternal law.
Jesus is the Lord of Hosts or the Lord of Armies. It was He, as Jehovah, who commanded ancient Israel to wage war against the corrupt and pagan inhabitants of the land of Canaan. It was He who flooded the earth when man’s wickedness precluded children having a chance of living normal lives without corruption. It was He who will allow the horrific destructions of the last days to fall upon those who have forsaken or forgotten Him, and who will destroy the armies of Gog and Magog in Israel. Yet, all of it is done out of perfect redeeming love.
Had not the Lord said, through the great prophet Isaiah, that He was pierced and died for us and that He can never forget us?
“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.
“But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:13-16).
This is a clear reference to the Crucifixion and to the marks that even today appear on the Lord’s palms, wrists, and feet. They are constant reminders to Him, and us, of His everlasting care over the House of Israel and over mankind generally. He died for each of us, and His blood will cleanse all who come to Him, enter into sacred covenants with Him that are authorized by the Holy Priesthood, and faithfully walk in His commandments.
When we think of being like Jesus, we often don’t think of the zealous, defiant, table-throwing version of Him. We think of a benign figure with a head surrounded in a halo of light, speaking pleasing words. That’s the Jesus many want, but it’s not the Jesus we need – and it isn’t the Jesus of scripture. The Lord’s two cleansings of the outer court of the temple serve as a reminder that the Gospel is stricter than we sometimes think, that the path truly is narrow and difficult to traverse, and that the Lord is more fervent in detecting and reproving falsehood and sin than we dare imagine.
The welcome corollary to the strictness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the promise of eternal joy, complete forgiveness, and perfect healing. We are all sinners, and we all need the Master’s touch. It may be difficult to confess sins, to mend old ways, to ditch bad habits, to reject worldly pleasures, to part company with false friends, to speak out against popular perversion, to stand up against evil in high places, and to engage in consistent repentance, yet it is the only path that leads to satisfaction, happiness, and salvation. It is the only way to do better and be better.
Let the Lord cleanse the temple of your heart. Let Him throw out the moneychangers, thieves, and hypocrites who have polluted your mind and soul. Let His zeal rest upon you, engulf you, and motivate you. You may momentarily feel the bite of His whip or flinch from the sound of crashing chairs and tables, but this is the cleansing process in action. The tranquility that will follow will be priceless and sweet. You will, if you endure and glory in the cleansing, stand with Jesus in the eternal temple – His Holy House.
I repeat: Let Him make His abode with you, cleanse you from the inside out, and make you into the man or woman you are meant to be. Go to Him – to the Light – and let Him reprove you, illuminate your imperfections, and begin the process of healing and betterment. It isn’t a depressing journey, but one full of love, joy, and victory.
When you let Jesus into your heart, and truly pour through the holy scriptures that speak of Him, don’t be shocked to find a far different Being than you once imagined or that society preaches. But that is ok. The world rejects the truth and the light/Light. Cleave to the Light regardless of the opposition. Let your temples be cleansed. And join in the divine work of redemption by following the example of the Savior in ridding your heart, home, and community of that which pollutes them. May the Lord strengthen, guide, and bless you as you follow Him.
April 5, 2023