And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
—Matthew 21:12–13 (cf. Mark 11:15–17; Luke 19:45–46)
During Jesus’s visit to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, he was enraged to find in the outer court of the temple opportunistic businessmen setting up shop, charging Jewish pilgrims from throughout the Diaspora exorbitant rates to exchange their coins for temple currency so that they could purchase the requisite animal sacrifices. Pigeons and doves, the poor man’s offering (Lev. 5:7), were also price-gouged. Jesus wouldn’t stand for this exploitation, especially not in his Father’s house. Nor could he allow such commercial hustle and bustle in a space demarcated for prayer. Nuh-uh. No sir.
So he flipped over the sales tables and drove out the offenders. John recounts a similar episode at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry (John 2:13–17), mentioning the use of a makeshift whip!
Mark places this event on Monday, the day after the triumphal entry.
[Related post: “Turn Over the Tables (Artful Devotion)”]
LOOK: Quentin Matsys (Flemish, 1466–1530), Jesus Chasing the Merchants from the Temple, 1520s. Oil on panel, 50 × 39 cm. Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.
LISTEN: Piano Concerto No. 1, third movement: Toccata con fuoco by Keith Emerson, 1977 | Performed by the English progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer with the London Philharmonic, on Works: Volume 1 (1977)
A toccata is a virtuosic piece of music featuring fast finger work; con fuoco means “with fire.”
For more songs for Holy Week, see the Art & Theology Holy Week Playlist.