Jesus rode into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, the coming Prophet, Priest, and King. Yet when he arrived in Jerusalem his reception was mixed. Even by those bringing him in with shouts of Hosanna, there is only a dull sense of the significance of the moment.
Mat 21:10-11 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” (11) And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
The crowds had declared all his good works as he rode in. They received him with their praise as king. But as he arrives into Jerusalem he is received only as a prophet. And even this, was limited to only some.
Mat 21:12-13 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.”
When Jesus arrived in the temple he saw the sight of all the commerce going on in the courtyard of the temple. People were exchanging their money to “clean” money purified from the filth of the world. With this they bought sacrifices to offer in pursuit of spiritual purity for themselves. All of this was a profound misunderstanding of what defiles a person and what makes him pure before the Lord. So Jesus set to work. He overturns the tables and brings the chastisement of Isaiah 56:7. But to understand his context let’s look at a few more verses.
Isa 56:3-7 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” (4) For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, (5) I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. (6) “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— (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.”
God had made a promise in Isaiah 56 to the foreigners and to the eunuchs that though they were forbidden to enter his temple, he would always have a place for them. There would be a place for them within the walls of the temple where they could draw near to God. They could joyfully draw near to the Lord and offer sacrifices to him because God’s temple would be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Back in Jesus day, that courtyard has been emptied of the undesirable people to make way for all the commerce we just talked about. The foreigners cannot come in. The eunuch dare not approach. Jesus is ready to make good on all the promises of God. Jesus is going to bring those near who are unclean and can’t approach. He opens up the place in the temple. And it is quickly filled.
Mat 21:14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.
The remarkable thing about this passage isn’t what Jesus drove out of the temple to purify it, but what he brought into the temple without defiling it. The blind and lame came to him and he healed them.
Would you come to the presence of the Lord? Not on the basis of your own religiosity and self righteousness. Not on the basis of temple rights. Would you approach him by the one way that he has made for defiled, sinful people to come. Will you come through Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through him.