Only Luke fails to mention this particular incident in Jesus' life. For purely theological reasons, John places it at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, while Mark and Matthew place it towards the end. In Matthew, it's found in chapter 21; his cleansing of the temple. Judaism back then required that people come to the temple to worship; this consisted of the offering sacrifices on a yearly basis, which offerings had to be without blemish. Only the best for God. People would come from all over the nation to worship, and as is usually the case, those in charge of the temple found ways to fleece the flock, so to speak.
The country folks would bring their animals, the best they had, but they would inevitably fail to pass inspection. Some sort of blemish could always be found, forcing the pilgrims to buy certified perfect animals at inflated prices. If they chose to simply buy their animal when they got to Jerusalem instead of risking theirs being rejected, they discovered that the ordinary currency wasn't acceptable, so they had to exchange their money for special temple money. Of course, there was a significant surcharge for this service. Any way you look at it, what should have been a joyous occasion was turned into a miserable business at which the customer was always wrong. In addition, the temple precincts instead of being a place of reverent reflection, was more like an open air market, with shouting, arguing, the bleating of sheep and bawling of cattle. It was the epitome of religion gone wrong.
Into this chaos Jesus charged like a wild man, whip in hand (according to John), flipping over the tables, scattering money and animals, and making a general nuisance of himself. As you can imagine, the religious establishment was not impressed. The little children who happened to be there were singing praises intended to welcome the Messiah, while Jesus healed the sick and lame. In the Message version, it says, "Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in."
This morning in our Sunday School class, two questions surfaced regarding this text: "What is getting in the way, keeping Jesus out of our lives?" and "How are we getting in the way of others coming to Christ?" These questions are connected. If I allow things to come between Jesus and myself, inevitably I will become a hindrance to others coming to Christ. Even our religion can come between Jesus and myself, if I get more attached to the form than the substance of it. And religion often gets in the way of people coming to know Jesus.
It's a big challenge; there are so many distractions. The Bible talks of them coming in three forms, the world, the flesh, and the devil. This world with all its allures can come between Jesus and me. The flesh, ie, me myself can get in the way, with sin, guilt, pride, etc. And of course, there is that spiritual enemy of our souls who is as real as he is subtle, convincing us that he is only a fairy tale even as he assaults us with doubts and fears. We are told to be on our guard, to be ever watchful. I am grateful tonight for the Scriptures which reveal truth, enlightening the soul and revealing to us things we otherwise would forget.