Short Meditations in John 2: 12. God Corrects
Jn 2:16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
A parent who chastises a child without explanation would be judged unfair. An employer who dismissed an employee without explanation would be considered unjust. Correction and explanation go together. In the Bible, and more specifically in the Old Testament, God explained and explained and explained and then disciplined. Originally the explanation came in the form of the Law, including the blessings and curses, but as Israel’s history went on, the ‘explanations’ came more and more through prophets.
John gives us no more detail of Jesus’ ‘explanation’ than this verse. In the second expulsion Matthew records , “It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a `den of robbers.” (Mt 21:13). Mark reports, “And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ” `My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mk 11:17) Luke is similar but omits the idea of him saying it while teaching.
Whether two occasions or one, Jesus conveys distinct unhappiness about what was happening for three primary reasons. First this temple was supposed to be God’s house, the place where God made His dwelling. When the Tabernacle was completed and when Solomon’s first temple was completed, the glory of God filled the place, visibly revealing the presence of God there. That had not happened with subsequent temples and certainly not Herod’s great building – yet it still remained at the very least a monument to God, some place that drew people to God. That was, theoretically at least, why pilgrims came to the temple.
The second reason was that the temple was supposed to be a place or prayer or place of encounter with God. As we noted above, that is why people came to it.
The third reason, which ultimately is why Jesus acted as he did, is that the sense of awe, peace and holiness was shattered by the presence of dozens (if not more) of animals. It has become more like a market than a place of prayer and encounter with God. The religious leaders and temple authorities may have made excuses why they were doing it, but it still detracted from the purpose of the temple – to create a place of prayer, contemplation and encounter. Right, clear out!