There is an often overlooked detail in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus was not alone in his protest. After Jesus chased out those buying and selling, along with the money changers and those who sold doves, Jesus’ protest culminated in the blind and the lame coming to Him in the temple. They occupy the area and right there in that place Jesus began to heal them. These protestors then begin to sing a victory song, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.’ Naturally, the temple authorities freaked! (Matthew 21:13-16). So what is the significance of this aspect to Jesus protest?
In ancient Israel, if you were sick it meant that you were a great sinner and therefore are being punished by God; or you were suffering from a generational curse, meaning that your father, or grand-father, was a sinner and therefore you are suffering because of their past sins. In their worldview if you wanted to be kept free from ill health then you must have a right standing with God. To have a right standing with God you had to visit the temple and make sacrifices. Therefore, if you got sick it meant that you had failed in your religious duty to the sacrificial cult. This human inspired belief that they held was designed to feed upon people’s religious guilt and fears. If you were sick that meant that you were ritually unclean. If you were unclean then you could not enter the temple to make sacrifices. If you could not make sacrifices, there was no hope for reconciliation. Great lengths were taken to keep these people out. The priests actually believed that by coming into contact with sick and vulnerable people that they would become ritualistically unclean and would as a result be unworthy to stand before God in the temple. They knew a lot about religion but they knew very little about the loving and compassionate nature of God.
The question is if they weren’t allowed in the temple then where did these sick and lame people come from? In most places the sick and the vulnerable were forced on the fringes of society. Many were made homeless and forced to live in desperate poverty. In Jerusalem there were certain locations within the city, near to the temple, where these ‘sinners’ would be allowed to gather in hopes for healing. The sight of such people served as a demonstrative testimony to all Jews visiting the temple of the consequences of a lack of religious fever. The nearest location to the temples animal market was the Bethesda pool which was located on the other side of the ‘Sheep Gate’ where the animals were brought into the market. The pool was originally designed to provide the temple with water to wash away the animal’s blood. This was the closest these people could get to the temple and the animal sacrifices, until one day there is a commotion in the temple.
Can you imagine the scene? The people buying the animals for sacrifice have to be ritually clean in order to be able to enter the main part of the temple and all of a sudden unclean sinners are coming in! The worshipers would have most likely have charged out of that place screaming ‘unclean, unclean’! I believe that this attack on the temples animal market was a planned event. It was clearly organized. Jesus had got all of these sick people, from the outskirts of the temple complex, such as the Bethsaida pool, to come together in that place in order to demonstrate against the sacrificial cult and to demonstrate Jesus authority over it. The sacrificial cult was meant to be a means by which people could know God. It was however being used to oppress the weak and vulnerable of society.
Stay tuned for Part Five. For those who want to read the entire article: The Activism of Christ.
Thank you for reading and sharing, we pray our articles are a blessing! Comments are welcome. God Bless ~ Phil Guyott