Passion Week Monday

Passion Week Monday Devotion

Matthew 21:12-22; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-17

​Holy Monday reminds us of the purity of Jesus, the righteousness which he embodies, and his commitment to make a way for all who would come to him. On the second day of Passion Week, Jesus returned with his disciples to Jerusalem. Along the way, he cursed a fig tree because it failed to produce fruit. Later in the day, he went to the Temple. He concluded the day by sleeping in Bethany, likely at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. It was the events at the temple that caught the attention of the crowds. The Jewish religious leaders had turned the house of God into a house of business. They were personally profiting off the back of God. The religious leaders’ chief concern was lining their pockets rather than leading people to praise God. Matthew summarizes the events when he writes:

Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13He said to them, “It is written, my house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of thieves!”

Context helps us to better understand the dynamics at play. Traveling worshippers would come to Jerusalem to make sacrifices for their sins. Many of these God-seeking individuals lived too far from Jerusalem to carry a sacrificial animal with them. Pilgrims traveled light in those days. The religious leaders made provision for such traveling pilgrims to buy a sacrificial animal upon arrival to Jerusalem. The temple leaders prepared special tables where travelers could pay a temple tax and purchase what was needed for the sacrifices—animals, wood, oil, etc. The poor pilgrims who could not afford to buy a sheep could substitute doves in their place (Leviticus 5:7). However, the problem on Passion Monday was that these money hungry priests had monetized the work of God. The cost for a lamb or dove increased to extortionary prices around religious festivals and holidays. The Passover Holiday was just around the calendar corner, and the corrupt temple leaders sold these sacrificial provisions at inflated prices. Imagine the scene. The temple site reserved for solemn worship had been transformed into a monetized marketplace. The place where men and women were to offer praise to God was turned into a trading center with the cooing of animals and birds.

When Jesus saw what had become of the house of God, he was filled with righteous anger. He cleared the area of those involved in commercial transactions. This was to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy that a day would come when no “money making merchant” would remain in the house of the Lord (Zech. 14:21). Jesus then quotes portions of Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. According to Matthew, Jesus concluded this episode by accusing the religious leaders of making God’s house “a den of thieves.” If the word used for “thieves” has the same meaning that it previously had in Matthew 26:55 and Matthew 27:38, it is possible that Jesus is accusing the religious leaders of converting the temple into a “nationalist stronghold.”

However, Jesus’ focus runs much deeper than condemning unjust business practices or confronting the replacement of worshipping God with Jewish nationalism. Jesus threatens the whole sacrificial system. Consider the irony.

The temple leaders charged inflated prices for their gain. Jesus, as the perfect sacrifice, did not apply sinful charges against you and this was for your gain.

The temple leaders restricted access to God to only pious Jewish nationalists. Jesus would expand access to God to all nations.

Jesus paid it all, and all to him we owe! On this Holy Monday, take a moment and thank God for the purity of Jesus, the righteousness he embodies, and his provision to make a way for you to come to the Father. Thank Jesus that he did not restrict access to God like the evil temple entrepreneurs. Instead, he made a way when there was no other way.