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During Jesus’ time, King Herod the Great had reconstructed the Temple of Jerusalem, which was the only place where animal sacrifices were offered by the Jews. The Temple had various sections, with the most sacred being the Holy of Holies. This dark, secluded place was where the High Priest entered once a year on the Day of Atonement, carrying a lamp to offer incense. It was the location of the Ark of the Covenant in the first Temple built by King Solomon. Adjacent to the Holy of Holies was the Holy Place, where priests performed daily incensing rituals before the morning sacrifice and after the evening sacrifice. The golden altar of incense was located here, along with the menorah and the table of showbread. Only priests had access to this area, where the Angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah.


Adult pilgrims were required to offer half a shekel for the service of the Temple, as stated in Exodus 30:14-15: “Everyone who is enrolled, of twenty years or more, must give the contribution to the LORD. The rich need not give more, nor shall the poor give less, than a half-shekel in this contribution to the LORD to pay the ransom for their lives.” Jewish law prohibited coins with images from being offered in the Temple treasury. Pilgrims, coming from various countries with different currencies like Syrian, Egyptian, or Greek coins, had to exchange them for acceptable coins. This practice, meant to be a service, often led to the exploitation of pilgrims through exorbitant exchange fees, which Jesus could not tolerate.


Jesus was furious at the Temple for several reasons:
1. The relocation of merchandise from the Mount of Olives to the prayer area for gentiles, turning it into a noisy and congested place.
2. The exploitation by merchants with the high priests’ cooperation, charging excessive fees for money exchange.
3. Merchants overcharging pilgrims for sacrificial animals and birds.
4. Priests unjustly rejecting sacrificial animals brought by pilgrims, favoring the merchants within the Temple. This corrupted the genuine spirit of prayer and selfless service, prompting Jesus to act as a rebellious leader.


The cleansing of the Temple by Jesus was a significant act of protest against the Jewish authorities’ defilement of the Temple. This act recalled the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC), where the Maccabees fought against the Seleucid rulers and corrupt Jewish priests to restore traditional Jewish worship in the Temple. Jesus’ actions were a revolt against the religious leaders who desecrated the Temple by allowing trade in the Court of the Gentiles and financially exploiting pilgrims. Like the priests during the Maccabean revolt, the clergy in Jesus’ time were corrupt, receiving bribes from Roman authorities and unjust merchants.


For Jesus, the Temple was a sacred place of worship. The sale of sacrificial animals and money-changing, which once took place at the Mount of Olives, had become sources of corruption within the Temple. As Christians, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit and receive Jesus during the Holy Eucharist. Let us strive to keep our hearts and our church holy, maintaining the sacredness of our faith and worship.

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