Jesus Cleanses the Temple
The Temple in Jerusalem, referred to above, had been brilliantly restored
and expanded by Herod the Great. It played a key role in Jewish religious, political and economic
life at the time of Jesus. Its massive walls and buildings dominated the city itself; during the great
Jewish Feasts it was a magnet drawing Jews from beyond the city and from all over the world, who tripled Jerusalem's existing population.
Ever sensitive to possible danger from a volatile mix of religious fervor and revolutionary politics at such
times, Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator, left his administrative center at Caesarea Maritima and came to Jerusalem with extra
troops to maintain order and act quickly in case of trouble. Some of those troops were stationed at the Fortress Antonia, adjacent to
The Gospels report that Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.
He taught regularly in the Temple area, and His teaching gravely concerned the
Rulers of the city. On the above occasion, He upset the tables of the Temple vendors which further provoked
the city's religious leaders. Those actions were a major factor leading to His condemnation and death.
Today nothing remains of the Temple and its surrounding buildings which were destroyed by the
Roman Legions of Titus in 70 A.D. All that remains are some broken pieces and the great platform
created as the site for the Temple by Herod the Great. Now the Temple Site is dominated by the impressive Moslem Shrine, the Dome of the
Rock, built after the Moslem conquest of Palestine in the 7th
A model of the Jewish Temple shows its innermost room was the Holy of Holies (1). In the surrounding Porticoes,
people congregated and listened to Teachers and Rabbis. Jesus and the Apostles taught there. On the left,
the Royal Portico (3) is where the moneychanger's tables stood and animals were sold for sacrifice. On the right are the towers of the
Antonia Fortress (2), rebuilt by Herod the Great and used by the Romans to control Jerusalem, especially the Temple area.
Most certainly the one act or action that led most directly to the execution of Jesus was the
cleansing of the Temple reported above in John 2. The Sadducees controlled the Temple and all of the business related to the Temple in
the First-Century BC. Furthermore, the Romans controlled the Sadducees.
It is probable to believe that the cleansing of the Temple occurred during Holy Week, as
suggested in the Gospels. Jesus had created quite a stir in the Palm Sunday
processional, an act filled with Messianic symbolism. This would have already created excitement and anticipation among the people and
would have aroused the suspicions of both the Sadducees and the Romans. By following this momentous occasion with the cleansing of the
Temple, Jesus would have further raised the hopes and expectations of the common people and the Zealots,
that their deliverance from the oppression of Rome was at hand.
No doubt, many people saw a connection between Jesus and Judas Maccabee (the hammer), the leader
of the revolt against the Seleucid Greeks in 164 BC. When He mounted a donkey
at the city limits of Jerusalem, fulfilling both the Prophecy of Zachariah and Rabbinical Expectations, the people who were near
responded by calling out "Hosanna"! or
"save us", not from our sins, but
most likely from the Romans. This set the stage for the events which were to follow.
In cleansing the Temple, Jesus further stimulated the Zealots and the general populace into
thinking that something liberating was about to take place; the deliverance from the oppressive Romans. The Sadducees and Romans also
knew what all of the symbols meant. Attacking the Temple, by attacking the Money-Changers, was an indirect attack on Rome and as such,
an action which could not be tolerated by Pilate. Therefore, this action, more than any action taken by Jesus,
led most directly to the need to have Him eliminated, which is to say, executed. When you attack the
Money-Changers, you are attacking the Sadducees, which means you are indirectly attacking Rome.
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