‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace! (Jn. 2:16).
The cleansing of the Temple speaks to the nature and purpose of worship and by extension, places of worship; our churches. To engage in the act of worship implies the recognition of something or someone greater than we are. This Someone is the living God who has fully and definitively revealed Himself in Christ Jesus Our Lord. Our response to this revelation is a religious response; and religion rightly ordered and practised elevates our human nature and causes us to ask questions that take us beyond the here and now. We ask why and to what end? These questions take us outside ourselves; and in worship that is rightly transcendent and therefore reverent, this is exactly what takes place: we are taken beyond our selves and we strain towards God and the very life of God. These questions are definitively answered by God Himself who through His revelation and the gift of grace offers us what we do not possess by nature; salvation and a partaking in His own life. Prayer nurtures and deepens this life. This is the purpose of worship and this may help us to understand Our Lord’s anger: Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace! (Jn. 2:16).
All four Gospels record the cleansing of the Temple and scholars tell us that the cleansing took place in what was known as the Court of the Gentiles or the outer court of the Temple. Those selling cattle, sheep and doves, as well as the money changers, were providing a legitimate service for pilgrims to the Temple because the Temple tax that had to be paid by any adult male over the age of twenty, and this had to be made with a Jewish coin. Hence the money changers were needed for those coming from elsewhere; and the availability of sacrificial animals was also convenient and necessary. The necessary commerce for the Temple sacrifices however, had been brought within the Temple precincts and this veritable marketplace had replaced the intended purpose of to the outer court or the Court of the Gentiles.