Jesus Clears the Temple – By Who’s Authority?

Matthew 21:12-27

Last week:
First – the Big Story – the narrative – continuing to follow Jesus’ life & mission.
Second – application – our relationships, with people and with Jesus & what we can learn about “kingdoms” that people
12 Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked
over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves. 13 He said to them, “The Scriptures declare,
‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” 14 The blind and the lame
came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these
wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” But the
leaders were indignant. 16 They asked Jesus, “Do you hear what these children are saying?” “Yes,” Jesus replied.
“Haven’t you ever read the Scriptures? For they say, ‘You have taught children and infants to give you praise.’ 17 Then
he returned to Bethany, where he stayed overnight.
18 In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, he was hungry, 19 and he noticed a fig tree beside the road. He
went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!”
And immediately the fig tree withered up. 20 The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, “How did the fig
tree wither so quickly?” 21 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don’t doubt, you can do things
like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will
happen. 22 You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.”
23 When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded,
“By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” 24 “I’ll tell you by what authority I do these
things if you answer one question,” Jesus replied. 25 “Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely
human?” They talked it over among themselves. “If we say it was from heaven, he will ask us why we didn’t believe
John. 26 But if we say it was merely human, we’ll be mobbed because the people believe John was a prophet.” 27 So they
finally replied, “We don’t know.” And Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.

Big Story

V12-27 Read this as a biographical story. Consider the location, the plot, the characters, and when this occurred. Write
down your thoughts. And what lessons can we learn? Write them down.

Setting: Occurred in Jerusalem, in the temple that had been rebuilt for the Jews by Herod the Great (now dead,)

In the area of the temple for gentiles (mumzers) – Court of the Gentiles.

It was Passover week, while occupied by Rome, to celebrate escaping from Egypt 1,500 years earlier.
**A LOT OF PEOPLE IN JERUSALEM** (several times the normal population)
QUESTION: What was up with money changers and buying/selling?
The Mosaic Law required that the Jews pay a half-shekel temple tax, which they paid in temple coinage. To
“accommodate” out of town folks, the “religious leaders” set up currency exchange tables in the large courtyard. The
people with Greek or Roman money could obtain the correct coins. And the “religious leaders” also “accommodated”
these worshippers by selling them “acceptable animals” to be used in the sacrificial offerings. And these “religious
leaders” were the ones that said whether or not an animal was “acceptable.”
The temple court looked like today’s flea market. It was crowded and a lot of business was being transacted. This was all
set up and allowed by the Sadducee priests. How nice of them! Remember inside that very temple was the Holy of
Holies where they connected with God himself. This was supposed to be a sacred area.

V12 So, Jesus is angry at the Sadducean priests for permitting the merchants to conduct business.

Zech 14:21 In fact, every cooking pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. All who come
to worship will be free to use any of these pots to boil their sacrifices. And on that day there will no longer be traders in
the Temple of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
V13 Jesus QUOTES THE BIBLE to them
Isaiah 56:7 I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer.
I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations.
Jer. 7:11 Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? Surely I see
all the evil going on there. I, the Lord, have spoken!
There’s more to it:
Jer 7:9-11 Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other
new gods of yours, 10and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, “We are safe!”—only to go right
back to all those evils again? 11Don’t you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of
thieves? Surely, I see all the evil going on there. I, the Lord, have spoken!
Back in Jeremiah Israel’s leaders had turned the temple into a stronghold of Jewish nationalism (this is our country –
instead of, this is God’s temple) that dishonored the temple and really only had a superstitious respect for it.
So, Jesus was telling the religious leaders they were just like the leaders back in the day that Jeremiah, a prophet, was
speaking out against.
FOR JESUS to say and do all of this was a MASSIVE ASSUALT on the religious leader’s AUTHORITY and
INTEGRITY! (in just two verses.)
So where do this put us in the BIG STORY OF JESUS REDEEMING THE WORLD? LET’s go to more PROPHECY in
the BIBLE.
Malachi 3:1-4 “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are
seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely
coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to
stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that
bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them
like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord. 4 Then once more the Lord will
accept the offerings brought to him by the people of Judah and Jerusalem, as he did in the past.
Jesus is ready to make things right – but he knows – the people are not – and that THIS TIME he will end up being the
sacrifice for all this is and unbelief. This time.


V14-17 Jesus heals and children worship
Psalm 8:1-2 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens. 2 You have
taught children and infants to tell of your strength, silencing your enemies and all who oppose you.


V18-19 Cursing the fig tree.
Let’s GO TO the bible
Jer. 8:13 I will surely consume them. There will be no more harvests of figs and grapes. Their fruit trees will all die.
PROPHECY AGAINST the JEWS.. Jesus uses it.
Another fig tree reference: Proverbs 27:18 As workers who tend a fig tree are allowed to eat the fruit,
So, workers who protect their employer’s interests will be rewarded.
Many think specifically the leaders are referenced.


V20-22 Jesus is urging the disciples to have full confidence in Him as the Messiah.
V21 The Message: But Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Yes—and if you embrace this kingdom life and don’t doubt God,
you’ll not only do minor feats like I did to the fig tree, but also triumph over huge obstacles.
What mountain was nearby? The Herodium. Who built it? Herod the Great. Was there always a mountain there? No, they
moved the dirt and rocks.
Remember, Rabbis often used objects around them. The mountain – “move” Herod built/moved a mountain for the
Herdium. Jesus says faith in him can do more than Herod can do.
Jesus: I can throw it in the ocean.


V23-27 Why bring up John the Baptist?
Because the people absolutely believed John was a prophet. He was popular and he was a martyr. So, Jesus shut them
down with his question.
Was John Jesus’ rabbi? A mumzer rabbi for mumzer Jesus. Possibly.


– The “kingdom” of the temple. What kingdom are you building?
– The trappings of power. You may not have power over anything right now, but when you do, how will you handle it?
– The slippery slide into “wrong think.” God’s positions He had set up for the Jews got perverted. “ALL SKATE” What
will you do to not slide into “wrong think” whatever your place in society? Daily connection with God.
– The temptation of money
– Corruption. What corrupts you? What can you do about it? Lies will be caught, cheating/corruption will be caught.
– Corrupt religion – keep it simple – beware a lot of hierarchy/positions/titles lies
Google US congressmen’s net worth, it’s astounding. Both parties.
**We have the chance to live differently in the “kingdoms” we control. Arnis – Sheridan – 2 doctors squabble – only
person they could think of that they both trusted was Arnis. Arnis? his mother let a kin folk name her kids.
Credentials – Having Authority! Beware. Be careful.
– Faith like a child

– There were people everywhere, animals, lots of noise and the religious leaders complained about children shouting.
Do you have any unreasonable “hot buttons?”
– Again, care about kids.
– Jesus has the power to do whatever he wanted to, but he cursed a fig tree instead of people. He is patient.
So, the secret is not to believe really hard and try to force God into doing what we want. The key is to perfectly align
ourselves with Him. And that is what we try to do through prayer. By getting down on our knees (either figuratively or
literally) we are saying, “God, you are king. You are the ruler. Let me follow your will and not my own.”
First, bear fruit. Fulfill the purpose for which God created and saved you.
Second, seek to understand God’s will and align ourselves with it.
While we should not be afraid to make big requests of God, unless you are sure it is His will, you can’t be sure of an
affirmative answer.
WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT? V23-27 Challenging Jesus
– Don’t challenge Jesus. Question and wrestle with things but you’re not going to back him in a corner. Instead, work
on your faith. Challenge yourself to learn and grow.