(Cross-posted at Image of Truth)
On Monday, Jesus, after cursing a fig tree for not producing fruit (thus establishing his authority over the created world) re-enters Jerusalem and raises quite the ruckus in the temple.
When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. He said to them,“The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. But they were afraid of him because the people were so amazed at his teaching.
That evening Jesus and the disciples left the city. (Mark 11:15-19 NLT)
Some interpreters have turned this passage into a diatribe against capitalism, particularly in some artistic portrayals. Modernized Passion plays have portrayed the temple courts as everything from a flea market to Wall Street. However, capitalism itself is not what Jesus is rebuking. Those selling in the temple courts were taking advantage of pilgrims who came to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices. They would change out Roman currency for temple currency at exorbitant exchange rates, then sell clean animals to be offered as sacrifices by those who had not brought their own animals. The temple merchants were taking advantage of people… and in the very temple of God. The courts had become a cesspool of dishonesty and greed, and Jesus would have none of it. Those who portray Jesus as a mere docile, nonabrasive figure must ignore this passage, where his righteous anger overflows into violence.
(Illustration: Rembrandt, Christ Drives the Money Changers Out of the Temple, 1626)