Bible readingContinuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.

The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.

Do some clergy using the Lectionary really want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? I wonder.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Luke 19:45-48

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.”

47 And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him, 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on his words.

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Our Lord’s cleansing of the temple took place on Tuesday of Passover Week, a few days before His crucifixion.

John’s Gospel does not mention this event at that time but earlier in His ministry (John 2:13-22). Emphases mine below:

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Verse 17 cites Psalm 69:9:

For zeal for your house has consumed me,
    and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.

Whereas Matthew, Mark and Luke also include a cleansing of the Temple, they put it in the account of the days leading up to the crucifixion. Is John’s out of place? It is not. John MacArthur explains that Jesus cleansed the Temple twice:

He went into the temple when He first arrived at the beginning of His ministry in Jerusalem, sat down in a premeditated manner, made a whip, and cleaned out the temple.  That’s how it started in John 2, verses 13 to 17, and that’s how, 3 years later, it ends – with the 2nd assault on the corruption of the temple.

John’s account is included in the three-year Lectionary, as is Mark’s. John’s is read in Year B on the third Sunday of Lent. Mark’s is read every year on Tuesday of Holy Week.

To gain a better understanding of this dramatic event, below are Mark’s and Matthew’s versions with differences to Luke’s highlighted:

Mark 11:15-19

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

In verse 17, Jesus cites Isaiah 56:7:

these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.”

It is a shame that Matthew’s version is not included in the three-year Lectionary readings. Note verses 14 and 15 below.

Matthew 21:12-17

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

12 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. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
    you have prepared praise’?”

17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

In verse 16, Jesus cites the Septuagint (Greek) version of Psalm 8:2:

    Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

John MacArthur sets the Passover scene in Jerusalem for us. He says that, because not all two million visitors to the city would have found lodging, the Jewish authorities extended the boundaries to encompass the surrounding area. In this way, the Jews who could not find room in Jerusalem’s inns would still be within the law. Furthermore:

There were religious groups scattered around the city, Essenes, Zealots, Pharisees, Sadducees, other religious groups who also had people connected with their groups who came into the pilgrimage, and they would accommodate the people who were a part of their groups.  There were probably even those who were true believers in Jesus who housed others who came down from Galilee who were also believers in Jesus.

And there were scattered around Jerusalem, foreign synagogues, synagogues that accommodated people who had come from other countries and spoke other languages and yet were proselytes to Judaism, and those foreign synagogues ran hospices for their people who also came for the Passover, visiting Jerusalem on this notable occasion …

To put it simply, the place was jammed with people beyond its capacity.

He also describes the temple’s layout for us:

The word “temple” here is the general word, generic word for temple, hieron.  It simply refers to the whole, huge ground, the general ground on which the temple and all its accommodating facilities sat, on the Mount on the east of Jerusalem, just up the slope from the Kidron Brook.  The east wall of the city was really the east wall of the temple – temple ground.  This is the general term for the temple and its totality which would mean that He went in the first opening to the vast temple ground – different word than another word translated temple, naos …

It was a very, very large place, obviously, to accommodate tens of thousands of people who were there.  Surrounding the temple were great walls, colonnades, all kinds of buildings, steps ascending to the temple.

Now, there were, within this great area, with its outer wall, several inner courts that got tighter and tighter and tighter until, finally, you got in to the temple on the inside which was made up of the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place.  First, you entered the Court of the Gentiles, named that because that’s as far as Gentiles could go.  Anybody could go there.  Absolutely anybody could go into the Court of the Gentiles, but if any Gentile went beyond that, death to the Gentile.

Inside the great Court of the Gentiles was another court called The Court of the WomenThat’s as far as women could go, but any Jew could go there.  You entered that by a gate called the Beautiful Gate – popular gate for beggars.  Any Jew could enter into what was called The Court of the Women.

Men could then go into the next inner court which is the Court of the Israelites.  It was marked by a gate called Nicanor’s Gate, made in the Herodian Temple out of Corinthian bronze and so massive it took 20 men to open and close it.  Here, people would assemble to worship, and they could look through the doorway into the next courtyard, which is The Court of the Priests.  And though they couldn’t go in, they could watch while the priests offered incense and sacrificed animals.

In the back of the Court of the Priests was the temple itself.  That is the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.  So people could look through the doors and see the priests at certain times, offering the morning and the evening sacrifice, burning incense, and, of course, at the Passover, sacrificing all day.  The whole large complex is called The Temple of God.

Now on to Luke’s account in today’s passage. Jesus was in the Court of the Gentiles (verse 45). This was where the Jews paid a Passover tax and purchased their animals to sacrifice.

With regard to the tax, MacArthur tells us that the Jews had to pay it with a special coin in order to be allowed into the Temple during Passover. The moneychangers would charge an exhorbitant rate to exchange everyday money for this coin.

As for animal sacrifices, people could and did bring the best of their animals. However, the priests had to inspect these first. They often rejected home-reared animals, pointing out a seeming flaw, thereby forcing worshippers to buy a temple-approved one.

On top of that, the Jews had to buy accessories and oils for their sacrifices in order to make them acceptable. These were also expensive.

Pigeons, by the way, were the cheapest sacrificial animals and the only ones the poor could afford. However, the men behind these stalls showed the poor no mercy:

Doves would be worth probably in our money today, about a dime [10 cents] each.  They would cost about $10.00 each there.

It was a huge, corrupt racket taking place in a filthy atmosphere. It hadn’t changed a bit since Jesus first cleansed the temple (John 2, cited above). Hence His anger and reminder that the moneychangers and priests were defiling a holy place (verse 46).

Luke’s account tells us (verses 47 and 48) that Jesus taught daily in the temple, which outraged the priests, scribes and ‘principal men of the people’. However, as the people flocked around our Lord to hear what He had to say, they could do nothing about Him for the moment.

Matthew’s account includes Jesus’s healing miracles performed in the temple during this time. He includes the children praising Him with hosannas. It must have been magnificent.

Matthew Henry’s commentary states:

Note, It is not enough that the corruptions of a church be purged out, but the preaching of the gospel must be encouraged.

Our Lord was not interested in the socio-political machinations of the day but in the Jews’ salvation. He was also intent that the temple be a place of worship and faith:

To Jesus, the issue in Israel was not Roman occupation; the issue was Jewish religious corruption.  The Lord is not concerned with the people’s relationship to Rome.  He is concerned with the people’s relationship to God.  He’s not concerned with their politics.  He’s not concerned with their social issues.  There are many things that could have been attacked.  There are many iniquities, injustices, deprivations, mistreatments, abuses.  He never addressed any of them.

Therefore, to be faithful to to Christ, we do well to avoid turning the Gospels into a socio-political manifesto.

MacArthur surmises that if Jesus were to return today:

He would attack the church, not Washington, not the universities.  He would attack the church with divine authority …

We have our false prophets, as there were then, and they’re in it for filthy lucre.  That’s why Peter reminded us in the text I read this morning not to do your ministry for money.  Oh, how the Lord hates those who pervert worship, especially those who pervert worship in His name, in the name of God, and do it for money, and do it dishonestly and exploit people, the hypocrites, and the false who promise healings and prosperity.  They do this in the name of God, in the name of Christ.

Church growth also enters into this. Some clergy and lay advisors are making a lot of money by selling books and conducting numerous seminars on how to ‘grow’ congregations via business methods and worshippers’ consensus. Yet, sadly, they do not mention preaching a faithful exposition of the Bible and accepting congregants as they are, encouraging them to grow in Christ. And that is the only way people will flock to church: by truly being affirmed as His people and worshipping solemnly in faith.

Next time: Luke 20:1-8

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