Holy Monday: Expulsion

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.

Matsys, Quentin_Jesus Chasing the Merchants from the Temple

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.

Turn Over the Tables (Artful Devotion)

Christ Overturning the Money Changers' Table by Stanley Spencer
Stanley Spencer (British, 1891–1959), Christ Overturning the Money Changers’ Table, 1921. Oil on canvas, 74 × 60 cm. Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham, England.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

—John 2:13–17 (cf. Matthew 21:10–13)

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SONG: “Turn Over the Tables in My Heart” by Wesley Randolph Eader, on Of Old It Was Recorded (2012) [Chord chart]

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Hosanna! Welcome to our hearts! Lord, here
Thou hast a temple too; and full as dear
As that of Sion, and as full of sin:
Nothing but thieves and robbers dwell therein:
Enter, and chase them forth, and cleanse the floor:
Crucify them, that they may never more
Profane that holy place
Where Thou hast chose to set Thy face!

—Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667)

Savior, who dost with anger see
The lusts which steal my heart from thee,
The thieves out of thy temple chase,
And plant thy Spirit in their place,
And when my God inhabits there,
My heart shall be thine house of prayer.

—Charles Wesley, from Short Hymns on Select Passages of the Holy Scriptures (1762)


This post belongs to the weekly series Artful Devotion. If you can’t view the music player in your email or RSS reader, try opening the post in your browser.

To view all the Revised Common Lectionary scripture readings for the Third Sunday of Lent, cycle B, click here.