"After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men 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 area, 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! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man." (John 2:12-25)
After the wedding at Cana, Jesus would travel (along with thousands of other Jewish people) to the capital city of the Holy Land – Jerusalem. The pilgrimage took place every year in celebration of Passover. This important festival event was significant for the Jews because it served as a memorial to their exodus out of Egypt. This exodus took place many years earlier as God miraculously delivered the Jews from oppressive slavery and led them to a new land of freedom. The Passover was a celebration of God’s faithful redemption. Jerusalem would serve as the center for worship and celebration of this most important occasion.
Like any big celebration where people travel from far off places, this must have been a festive occasion. So many people and such a blessing to remember God’s faithful protection. For most, it was probably one of the few times they were able to see each other. What a reunion and exciting festival this must have been!
But it was to be more than just a big party. At least it should have been.
In order to preserve the intent of the celebration, God instructed the people to bring a sacrifice. And not just any sacrifice. It must be an animal from their own flock that was without blemish. In other words, the people were supposed to give their very best to God.
The sacrifice had a number of purposes, but one of the simple reasons was that it helped the people remember what they were celebrating. When they had to give up something of such value within their culture, it caused them to ask the question, “Why am I doing this?” The sacrifice was God’s way of helping them remember His faithful blessing and avoid getting lost in a big party atmosphere.
Yet, over time, the original intent of this sacrifice was missed. Instead of worrying about the hassle of bringing your own animal, the people could travel in and buy one at the temple when they arrived. It was a great opportunity for the religious leaders to make lots of money and people could avoid the personal sacrifice of using their own animal.
When Jesus witnessed what had evolved over time, he became angry. He was angry because the people had missed the point. Instead of celebrating God, they simply showed up to party. Instead of redirecting the people, the religious leaders actually made it worse by promoting the indulgence and made money from the ignorance of the people. Their own satisfaction and pleasure became more important than God. Jesus knew this was not right. He turned over the money tables and said, “You will not make God’s holy place a market place!”
It’s important to understand that religious activity is meaningless in and of itself. God cannot be appeased by simply going through the motions. He deserves our very best and anything less is an unworthy sacrifice. He would soon demonstrate the most worthy sacrifice of all – His own life for you!