The next morning found us on our way back to Jerusalem. Jesus told us that there was something he had to do at the temple.
“I’ve been thinking about it all night,” Jesus said. “Solomon would be turning over in his grave if he could see what’s happening inside the temple gates.”
I wasn’t sure what Jesus was getting at, every time we had been in Jerusalem we’d visited the temple, and things hadn’t changed that much. Sure, there was a bit more hustle and bustle with Passover approaching, but it seemed like business as usual inside the gates.
I had never been to Jerusalem before I started following Jesus, and I have to admit the first time we had visited the temple had been a bit of an eye opener.
I grew up hearing about the temple, first from my parents and then in Cheder. We learned how it had been King David’s dream to build a permanent place to worship God, but in the end it was his son, Solomon, who had actually seen the dream become a reality.
Every Jew dreamed of someday being able to worship at least once at the temple, but with fishing and family there just never seemed to be the time to make the trip. And then there was.
Esther had been a little upset the first time I told her that I was going to Jerusalem with Jesus, but someone had to stay home with Marion. Eli was a great help on the boat, but a tender of old women he wasn’t, even if she was his mother.
When we arrived at the temple, I was overwhelmed. I had never seen anything like it, not even in my imagination. It was the biggest thing I had ever seen. I’m sure that I just stood there with my mouth open. Then I remembered the story Jesus told about Satan taking him to the very top of the temple wall. I looked up. I couldn’t even imagine how someone would be able to get up there.
And it was so noisy in the temple courtyards. I guess, when I thought of the temple, I thought of a place of worship, a place to pray and connect with God. Instead, it was like a marketplace. There were people selling animals for the sacrifices and others changing money, so the temple tax could be paid with the correct coins. It didn’t seem to bother people, so I assumed that was the way it had always been.
But this time it sure seemed to bother Jesus. I had never seen him so agitated. He was almost bouncing. Somewhere he had picked up some rope, and he stood there, braiding the pieces together.
“Enough,” Jesus screamed. “This has to stop!”
I wouldn’t have believed what happened next if I hadn’t been there.
Jesus started at the gate and made his way across the courtyard. With his makeshift whip he was driving the sheep and bulls toward the gateway and turned over every table he came to.
It was chaos, and nobody tried to stop him. It was bizarre; the merchants were scrambling to collect coins rolling across the ground, while others tried to stop the animals from escaping, but not one person raised their hand to Jesus. It was almost as if they knew that what they were doing was wrong and that Jesus was doing what needed to be done.
I’m pretty sure the priests didn’t feel that way, several of them came running in from the temple itself demanding to know what all the commotion was about, and then they saw Jesus.
“What are you doing? Are you crazy? These people have every right to be here.”
“When David dreamed of this temple, Father told him it would be called Holy. Isaiah wrote that it would be called a house of prayer and look at it now.
“It is a marketplace, a den of thieves, and you’ve stood by and allowed it to happen. Look at how they scattered, even the thieves knew what they were doing was wrong. But you stand here and defend your actions.
“What a bunch of hypocrites.”
As Jesus turned and walked away, I knew at that point he had crossed the line. He might be able to verbally spar with Scribes and Pharisees, but the priests had too much to lose. I saw it in their faces that afternoon, and everything that was about to happen was put into play.