Short Meditations in John 2: 10. A Degenerate Religion
Jn 2:14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
Arriving in Jerusalem it is not surprising that Jesus made his way to the Temple. Now one would assume that he had come there many times before on pilgrimages to Jerusalem and would have known what the state of the place was like. It was unlikely that it has just come about like this in the relatively short period since he had last been here for one of the ‘feasts’.
The ‘temple courts’ were likely to have been the outer area where any Gentiles who wished to worship God could pray, so it still was supposed to be a ‘worship/prayer’ area of the temple.
Now of course sacrifices were a large part of the ceremonial elements of the Law and so what we find is that the temple authorities, partly to make life easier for worshippers who wanted to conform to the requirements of the Law, but largely no doubt to make money, were providing beasts for sacrifice. How much easier not to have to herd a cow or sheep all the way from home, often many miles and many days travel away. How much easier to buy an animal there at the temple and then just had it over for sacrifice. How easy! No sacrifice on behalf of the worshipper. The truth is that the Law did not specify that the animal had to come from your own flock or herd but what we find here is ‘managed religion’ that has become more of a business than a holy procedure before the Lord.
The temple also had its own money that was different from Roman coinage (and had no heathen embellishments) and so the authorities provided a means for people coming with Roman coinage to change it into the less idolatrous local money. Hence the presence of money changers in the temple courts.
One way or another, religion became a business and we’ll see that upset Jesus. However, as much as we might look down on such a time, honesty compels us to ask ourselves, are some modern expressions of church life as much a business-led activity? Do we rely on human wisdom, human rules, humans ways of working and planning and strategising and making money to run the church? How much of modern church life depends on human reasoning and planning and so on instead of Jesus-led, Holy Spirit inspired, God honouring good works that have their origins in heaven?