The following is an excerpt from Gospel Justice. Some refer to the Monday of Holy Week as Justice Monday when Jesus drove the money exchangers from the temple. Powerful reminder that Jesus is not a tame lion and that he cares deeply about injustice.
Jerusalem was abuzz. “Did you see the crowds when Jesus entered yesterday?” “They say Jesus will be king.” “I heard Jesus makes the blind see.” “Jesus is coming here from Bethany.” “Maybe we’ll get to see Jesus perform a miracle.”
The name electrified the air. Many made their way through the temple’s court of the Gentiles, using it as a shortcut from the Mount of Olives. The temple court bustled with merchants selling birds and animals for the Passover.
As the people longed for a king to free them from Rome, they saw the money exchangers trading Roman currency for the temple coinage. Even as they hoped to see miracles, they saw gentiles trying to pray amid the noise and smell of animals.
They saw, but they did not see. They were thinking of Jesus. They were thinking of the greatness they might see. They wanted change—and believed Jesus could bring it. Focused on what that would mean for them, they marched past the injustice among them.
Jesus was coming. The air was tense with anticipation. But today Jesus would not enter on a colt to the crowd’s praise. Today He would shock the people. His popularity would evaporate. Jesus wasn’t who they wanted Him to be. Even now He stood before the city, resolute in what He must do.
Jesus examined a fig tree in full leaf. The disciples thought it strange He should look for fruit out of season. They were surprised when He got angry and cursed the tree, which would wither and die. Not seeing what Jesus saw, they failed to understand.
Jesus knew what awaited in Jerusalem. While His heart wept for the lost (Luke 19:41), it burned against the proud. He knew the hearts of people who looked good on the outside, but bore no fruit. The fig tree served as an illustration of fruitless lives. Without another word, He set out for the temple.
Entering the court of the gentiles, he ignored the whispers of staring people. He was glaring at the injustice they ignored. Poor pilgrims were being robbed. Merchants were taking advantage of them as they needed an offering for the Passover. The money lenders used dishonest scales to exploit the poor. Jesus responded in righteous anger. (See Matthew 21:12–13, Mark 11:15–19, Luke 19:45–46.)
“Crack!” The sound of a whip shattered the noise of people and animals. Those gathered around Jesus fled as coins went flying, merchants scattered, cages burst, and birds took to the air. An angry voice cried out, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17).
Jesus intentionally quoted Isaiah and Jeremiah.
The Isaiah passage began, “Be just and fair to all. Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you and to display my righteousness among you” (Isaiah 56:1 nlt).
Do what is right and good. Be just and fair to all. Jesus is coming to rescue and display His righteousness in anger against those who exploit others.
Jeremiah called the temple a den of robbers because the people exploited foreigners, orphans, and widows:
“. . . don’t be fooled by those who promise you safety simply because the Lord’s Temple is here! . . . But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows.” (Jeremiah 7:4–6).
Jesus could not abide injustice. He refused to stand by while people were exploited. The lesson of Jesus is that He got engaged and enraged in the face of injustice. He took action. He commands us to do the same, to “go and do likewise.”