This lesson is somewhat out of order as far as the seasons are concerned. I was going to use this lesson during the Easter season, but time and activities prevented its use. As we look at this subject, or any subject, we must keep in mind several things:

There are other basic principles of Biblical interpretation, but these should be enough to condition our minds for our present study. The Holy Spirit uses several word pictures to help us understand the concept of the church. If we use only one of those word pictures to develop our understanding of the church, we will have an incomplete and lopsided view of God’s holy organism, the Church. The word picture used most extensively by the Holy Spirit to explain the Church is that of the body -- The Body of Christ. The body concept of the local church is the subject of this series.

Unless we temper our view of the body concept with the other word pictures used by the Holy Spirit, we will have a tendency to become fanatical, and even legalistic in our approach to understanding the local church and its function. May I insert a fact that we know, but sometimes forget when we speak of legalism. Legalism is not the act of following exactly the commands and instructions of Scripture. Legalism is not having and following rules of order and function. Legalism is, instead, adding manmade rules and regulations to the grace of God, and equating the keeping of those as spiritual. There are many areas of the grace of God. All that God has provided for man comes from His grace, whether that be:

We often refer to this Church Age as the Age of Grace, and that is true in a special sense. However, God has always dealt with man according to grace, or else the human race would have been long gone sometime ago. When we add any rule, regulation, etc. to any of these graces of God, and make the keeping of those the standard of spirituality, we have entered into the realm of legalism. Oft times when it comes to the grace of God concerning the Church, those who pride themselves most in their lack of legalism, become the strongest of legalists.

We don’t want to take the time to fully explore the other word pictures used by the Holy Spirit to explain the Church, and its function at this time. To do so, at this juncture, would cloud the subject at hand. It is needful for us to have a general understanding of these others factors if we are to have a realistic and balanced view of the Church in general, and the local church in particular. To help us balance and broaden our concept of the church, let’s look at a passage dealing with some events in the life of Christ, and the teaching that He gave in connection with those events.

John 2:12-16 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days. 13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the moneychangers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!"

The account of the cleansing of the Temple is also recorded in the other Gospels, but this is the only record of the first cleansing. This first cleansing of the Temple came at the very beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. The second cleansing came at the very close of His earthly ministry, just before His crucifixion. The “after this” of v.12 has reference to the events of the wedding in Cana.

John 2:9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, "Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then that which is inferior; but you have kept the good wine until now." 11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Some have a problem with the lack of coordination and harmony concerning these events recorded in the four Gospels. We must understand that each gospel writer recorded events that demonstrated the aspect of Christ’s life which they chose to depict. One wrote highlighting Christ as king. While another wrote highlighting Christ as a servant, still another highlighting Christ as Deity, etc. Each writer chose those event which best depicted the particular aspect of Christ’s life they were addressing. The other three gospel writers concentrated their efforts on Christ’s ministry in Galilee, and particularly the last part of His ministry. These three writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke, only mention one Passover in which Christ had an active part at Jerusalem. John, on the other hand, mentions no less that three Passovers. Because the events of Christ’s life that John chose to use for his narrative center largely around Jerusalem, it is only natural that he would mention this first cleansing.

Even though the other Gospels do not mention these frequent trips to Jerusalem, they certainly indicate that there were several such trips, even though they are not related in any detail.

Matthew 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 "See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 "for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' "

Matthew could not have quoted Christ as saying that He had often offered Jerusalem the opportunity to repent, if Christ had not been in Jerusalem often. This fact has little to do with the subject of the church, as such, but has a lot to do with our confidence in the truth of Scripture, and has everything to do with our answer to those who ask as about the “hope that lies within us”. The Gospels, nor any other scripture were written to give us a history lesson, but to tell us about His story, Christ’s story.

The Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, is more interested in revealing the truth of God, than a chronological biography. Times, dates and happenings are only recorded so as to present Christ, and the truth of Christ’s message. When and in what order Christ did these things is not the main concern of the Holy Spirit. Instead, that Christ did these things, and what we are to learn about God and His plan from these things is the purpose of the Biblical narrative. The Holy Spirit is not nearly as concerned with the date as He is with the action of Christ, and why Christ acted as He did. We can be absolutely sure of the facts of Scripture. The Bible is a source book of the revelation of God and His plan. Facts that are set forth in the Scriptures are there only to bring out the truth God wants us to see. It is important to know the facts, and to know those facts as presented in Scripture. It is through the facts that we are able to discover the truth.

This all has to do with the word picture of the church. So hang in there, and we will see some wonderful truths. Don’t forget that the revelation of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God is progressive and accumulative. What is taught or said in one portion will make clear what is recorded in another passage. By understanding the first portion by means of the second, the second becomes even more clear. Paul told us that this was the teaching method of the Holy Spirit.

<“word picture”>1 Corinthians 2:13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

Remember, first we must have the facts. Then from those facts, properly placed, we can learn the truths. To see some of these truths, I will need to give some details. Some of you already have many of these in mind, and we could save time by just referring to them instead of teaching them again. However, not all have such a backlog. Therefore, the they must be given in order, so all will be able to follow. Plus, I find that we, who think we have the facts, often do not have them in their proper order. So therefore, we all need to carefully examine the details.

The account of the second cleansing of the Temple by Christ, along with this first cleansing will give us information that will make some of the word pictures of the church come alive and jump off the page into reality. Remember, just the fact of the act is not nearly as important as why the act. So we need to see why Christ cleansed the Temple, and what that cleansing has to do with the church. In the passages to follow, I have included enough of the context of this second cleansing so we can establish when it took place. Even so, please don’t get caught up in the when and miss the why.

Matthew 21:9-13 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David! 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!' Hosanna in the highest!" 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, "Who is this?" 11 So the multitudes said, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee." 12 Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "
Mark 11:15-17 So they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "
Luke 19:45-46 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, "It is written, 'My house is a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "

Keep in mind the reason Christ gave for the first cleansing.

John 2:16 And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!"

Also, notice the slight difference in the reason for the second cleansing, as recorded in Mark. It is not just that one writer remembered one thing, and the others remembered something else. It is certainly true that, as humans, some of these men would be impressed by one aspect of a speech, while the others would remember some other aspect. I’m sure the Holy Spirit used the memory and experience of each as He inspired them to write, but it was the Holy Spirit, Who was moving these men to write. So what’s recorded here is exactly what the Holy Spirit wanted to be recorded.

With this truth in mind look again at the account of Mark.

Mark 11:15-17 So they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "

God’s House was to be for all nations. Keep that fact in the back of your mind as we move on. That one phrase will be very important to the understanding of the cleansing act itself, and what the cleansing has to do with the church. This will take a lesson or two to lay the groundwork. So hang in there, and note the facts well. I appreciate you folks so much. For one thing, you want to study the Scriptures to see what they say, and you are not content to just listen to me say, “This is what the Scriptures say.” Thank you for your love of the Word of God.

We must put this act of Christ’s into its proper context. The context of Scripture itself, the context of the time in which the act took place, and the context of the total plan of God. The Passover was the greatest of all the Jewish feasts. Every adult male Jew within fifteen miles of Jerusalem was required to attend, unless there were circumstances that made attendance impossible. It was not only the local Jews that attended the Passover. Jews from everywhere in the known world came for this feast. By this time in history, the Jews had been scattered throughout the world. Unlike other nations, which had been overrun by foreign powers, most of these exiled Jews never forgot their ancestral faith and religion. It was the goal of every Jew to spend at least one Passover in Jerusalem. It was very possible that at any given Passover feast there could be as many as 2.5 million in and around Jerusalem. Most of these had traveled a great distance by foot or by donkey, etc.

We also need to keep in mind that every Jew over the age of 19 had to pay a Temple Tax. This was a tax to keep the Temple running with all its ritual and sacrifices. This was a tax in the amount of a half-shekel. A half-shekel was equal to 6 pennies. A days wage was 4 pennies or less (for many it was much less). So this Temple Tax was equal to the wages for a day and half, and it had to be paid in Jewish shekels, either Galilaean shekels or the temple shekels. It was all right to pay ordinary debts with Gentile currency, which the Jews considered as anything but clean spiritually. However, you must pay your debt to God in Jewish currency and even better yet, pay with the temple coins.

Pilgrims from all over came to the feast with all manner of coins and other currency from the nations in which they lived, or coins they had received from doing business with others. Many of these pilgrims, when they arrived at the Temple, could not pay their tax, because they had the wrong currency. The solution seemed quite simple. Provide a currency exchange so they could trade this unclean foreign currency for temple coins. In that manner, the problem was solved and the worshiper from these distant lands could pay their tax, and do it in style. This should have made for a happy and beneficial transaction. These money-changers were meeting a real need, and could have had a business that would have been beneficial to all concerned, including real worship. An honest fee for such services would be expected and very proper. However, an honest fee there was not! Human nature being what it is sees opportunity as a possibility for personal gain, not as an opening to help others. So, what was started as a helping-hand turned into a hand in the pocket of any and all who needed help.

The money-changers charged a fee for changing the coins into temple script. A nominal fee would have been proper and expected, however, they did not charge a nominal fee. There was a charge of 1 penny for every half-shekel they changed to temple script. Then, if the coin being changed was more than a half-shekel, they charged another penny for each half-shekel over the first, just to make change. So, if a person came to the money-changer with a coin worth 2 shekels, he would have to pay 1 penny to change one half-shekel into temple script, and 3 pennies just to get the rest of his change. Therefore, the money-changer would have made a profit of 4 pennies on this one transaction. Keep in mind that 4 pennies was a day’s wage, and a lot more than a day’s wage for most. A common laborer would gladly work for a penny a day.

Matthew 20:1-2 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 "Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius (a penny) a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

The profit from these types of money exchanging transactions was beyond imagination. It was not wrong to charge for this service, nor was it wrong to make a reasonable profit. Even the Talmud gave instruction in this matter: “It is necessary that everyone should have a half a shekel to pay for himself. Therefore when he comes to the exchange to change a shekel for two half-shekels, he is obliged to allow the money-changer some gain.”

A shekel is a unit of measurement by weight. It is approximately 2/5 of an ounce or about 11.5 grams. A coin that has a face value of a shekel, may not weigh a shekel because it has been worn away through use, or simply because of age. So there were always arguments about the value of the coin even before the transaction began. These arguments would be long and loud, and sometimes ended in a fist fight. This, of course, resulted in the ejection of the worshipper, quite often without the benefit of receiving his coin back. For the money-changer and the Temple big-wigs this was a hoped for result, because now this transaction was pure profit (maybe the use of pure would be a misnomer in this case). For these reason and many more the bargaining was loud, long and disturbing to all who were in ear shot.

To take care of the money exchanging needs of over 2 million people in such a short time required a number of money-changers with their tables all over the temple outer courtyard. Each of these trying to attract as many customers as possible, and each arguing his case as best and loud as possible. Our western type imagination can not even come close to comprehending this circus type atmosphere present in the temple courtyard.

This would have been bad enough, but the money-changing was just the tip of the iceberg of this unholy confusion. In addition to the money-changers there were the sellers of oxen, sheep, doves, etc. I’m sure that if they had thought of it, they would have sold T-shirts and baseball caps, too. They sure missed a good marketing idea, didn’t they? A visit to the Temple meant, for most local Jews and for all coming from distant lands, one or more animal sacrifice. Almost all major events in the life of the Jew had a sacrifice associated with it. Then there was the ever needful sacrifice for their sins, etc.

The Law demanded that the sacrifice be without blemish, and/or the best of everything. It was almost impossible to transport an animal in that day and arrive at the temple without it receiving some injury or blemish and still remain the best of the flock. Before an animal could be offered as a sacrifice, it had to be inspected by temple authorities. These inspectors were very careful and thorough. So therefore, it was a rare event when an animal, which had not been purchased from one of the Temple vendors, was approved for sacrifice.

There was a fee for inspection of about 1 penny. This fee was paid before inspection and was non-refundable even if the animal was rejected, and it was usually rejected if bought outside of the Temple vendors. So, if you brought an animal to sacrifice, you were out your inspection fee, nor could your animal be used. So for the duration of the feast and in spite of the tremendous crowd, you must care for this animal somehow and then transport it back home. If you were there and in this predicament, you need not despair. The Temple authorities had thought of everything, and would graciously take this burden from you, for a slight fee, of course. More than likely that animal would then make its way to the Temple vendors to be sold to someone else as a good sacrifice. Or it might be marked for slaughter, and find its way to the local fast food center, where it would become an easy meal for a weary traveler, for another very handsome fee. Let’s say you had come to the feast with your animal. It had been rejected, you were out your fee, and they had graciously taken the rejected animal off your hands. So to re-group and get your plans in order, you go down to the golden arches, and order a Big Lambchop or whatever, made from someone else’s rejected sacrificial lamb. As you linger over your sandwich and warm goat’s milk, you make your alternate plans for offering an appropriate sacrifice.

You could buy two doves. That would be an accepted sacrifice, and it would be far less money than a lamb. You could buy the two doves from a vendor outside the Temple for 4 pennies, but when they were inspected, they would probably be rejected, and you would be out your 4 pennies for the doves, plus 1 penny for inspection. Doing it that way, you would be out 5 pennies (more that a day’s wage for some, and up to 5 day’s pay for many). Going this route, you would have spent a bunch of money, and still you wouldn’t have a sacrifice. Plus, now you would have two doves to take care of.

Of course, you could go to the Temple and buy a pair of doves for 75 pennies. A full 70 pennies over the going price. Oh, yes! This temple service was fleecing the worshipers in more ways than one. It was out-’n-out blackmail of the poor and pilgrims, and it was sanctioned by the Temple authorities as proper religion. This is the scene that met the eyes of Christ and infuriated Him to the place of action. There were several reasons why Christ took this action, some we may come back to and look at later. For now, I want us to briefly see one of those reasons.

Keep in mind that Christ taught by many methods. Certainly one of those methods was through organized speeches. He also taught by what He did, and what He said when He acted in such a manner. It is on these actions and words that much of the teaching found in the epistles is based. Over and over again it is stated that the disciples remembered what He did and said, and then they understood what He was teaching. We can see a great deal of the truth concerning the church in the action of Christ, and the words He spoke during those actions. We will start seeing some of those truths today, but in the next lessons, because of this background those truths will become so plain you’ll say to yourself, “Why didn’t I see that before?”

John tells us that the truths he is teaching us were derived from:

1 John 1:1-3 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life-- 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

We often miss so much of what Christ taught, because we limit our concept of His teaching to such things as the Sermon on the Mount, etc. Such things are valuable teaching material, but that is not the only manner in which Christ taught. Don’t miss the teachings of Christ as He taught by what He did, and what His disciple handled of the Word of Life.

There were several courts or meeting places around the Temple. The outer most court was the Court of the Gentiles. Then there was the Court of the Women. Closer still was the Court of the Israelites or Jewish men. Then as close to the presence of God as man could get was the Court of the Priests. For the High Priest to go into the very presence of God, he must pass through all of those courts. There is some great teaching here also, but we will have to look at it some other time. We want to look at the Court of the Gentiles for this lesson. If you were a Gentile, and God had touched your heart and you wanted to approach God’s presence, the closest you could come was the Outer Court.

It was in this Outer Court or the Court of the Gentiles where the money-changers and the sellers of doves were set up for business. If a Gentile were drawn to God, there was no place in the Temple complex for him to pray and express his adoration to God except in this Outer Court. However, there was such an uproar and such riff-raff in the Court of the Gentiles that any thought of worship would be overwhelmed by the bellowing of cattle, the cooing of doves, the bleating of sheep, the shouts of hucksters, the bargaining and arguing over price, etc.

Even those moving on through to the inner courts must first pass by and become a part of this confusion. The Jewish women, men and priests had to pass through this realm of total chaos on their way to praise, worship and confession. The heart and mind cannot be turned toward God and spiritual things when bombarded with confusion and greed.

1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
James 3:16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there.

It was certainly the purpose of Christ to bring about an atmosphere in which the hearts and minds of the Jews could be turned to God in valid prayer. To do that, it was important to clear the Outer Court of this type of greed, envy and to rid it of the robbers. However, the Jews could walk away from this confusion and go to their respective courts, and find a measure of serenity in which the heart could be turned toward God. The Gentile, on the other hand, could not come any closer to the dwelling place of God than the Outer Court. The Gentiles’ place of worship had been usurped by those practicing greed, envy, falsehood, theft, etc., and all in the name of godliness and religion. The Court of the Gentiles had been made a den of iniquity and filled by those who practiced robbery, and the whole mess was sanctioned by the religious leaders. In effect, the Gentiles had been shut out from the presence of God by the conduct of those who claimed to be spiritual. Therefore, the importance of the little phrase recorded for us by Mark “for all nations”.

Mark 11:15-17 So they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "

This statement is important to the understanding of this event. It is also extremely important in the understanding of the church as we will see, starting next week.

We dare not leave this account for the week with just some academic tib-bit floating around in our minds. We need to make personal and group application. I don’t think I need to spell-out this truth and application in any great detail. I think just a word to the wise should be sufficient. We must be very careful that our conduct in the place of prayer and worship does not cause such confusion as to blocks others from turning their hearts toward God. Our conduct in this place should not draw attention from God to our actions, or to our own person. Our talking, our actions in this place should not distract from worship and learning, but should instead help guide the worshipers around us towards God.

We may not be selling sheep and changing money in this service. However we, also, can destroy the opportunity to learn and worship by:

I don’t know how many hundreds of times I have seen someone drawn to a truth in a lesson, only to have their attention diverted by the actions or words of some baby, child, or adult. By the time that person’s thought patterns were brought back to the truth of the moment, the reality of the teaching was lost, possibly for time and eternity. There is no way we can be in a group without some distractions. However, if each of us realized how important eternal truth is, and how devastating detractions can be for time and eternity, I’m sure we will do all in our power to minimize distractions. To God, that all of us, as we walk through the door of the church, would consciously consider how every action and activity will effect the other person as well as ourselves for eternity.

© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998