Scripture Reference: John 2:12-17
Suggested Emphasis: Stand up for what is right even if it means that others disagree with us.
When Jesus came to the temple during the yearly Passover celebration, he was outraged that temple leaders were allowing merchants to do their business in the parts of the temple that were supposed to be used for special worship of God. They were more worried about making money from selling animals to sacrifice than about worshiping God. Jesus loved his Father and he knew that what was being done was wrong. He turned over the tables and scattered the coins. Jesus stood up for what was right.
In the Gospel of John this story follows immediately after Jesus’ first miracle. Jesus had gone to Capernaum, the city that became a sort of headquarters for his ministry. Then he went to Jerusalem just before the Passover.
Jesus’ mother and brothers accompanied him, along with his disciples. We read in Mark 6:3 that Jesus had both brothers and sisters. These would have been Joseph and Mary’s children born after Jesus. They could not have been older siblings because Joseph and Mary did not sleep together until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:24-25).
Another thing that we notice is that Joseph (Mary’s husband) is not mentioned. Many scholars believe that he probably died before Jesus’ ministry began. As the oldest son Jesus would have had responsibilities towards his mother’s care. This would explain why, on the cross, Jesus felt a need to ask his close friend John to take care of Mary (John 19:25-27).
John records this event at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The other Gospel writers record the cleansing of the temple during the last week of Jesus’ life. Either there were two separate events (one at the beginning and one at the end of Jesus’ ministry) or perhaps John placed the event at the beginning of his gospel to show the hypocrisy of the Jews. It also shows that the way of Jesus was in total contrast to that attitude.
All Jewish men were required to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. People from far away were coming to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration and needed animals for the required sacrifices. It seems that the temple leaders were allowing this exchange to take place in the temple area. This area was reserved for worship of God. Jesus expected to see reverence for God and not a bunch of animals and money like a downtown market. He was outraged.
Jesus’ anger was righteous because it was based on His love for the Father. He didn’t care that His actions could get Him in trouble with the religious leaders. His example is one we should follow whenever we are faced with situations in which we have a chance to stand up for the right in the face of opposition.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Before class place several different types of coins (foreign coins as well as the more familiar) on the table. As the children arrive show them how to make coin rubbings. Place a coin under a clean piece of paper and rub a crayon over the paper. The impression of a coin will appear. The children will probably make a lot of these impressions on their papers. “I have a question to ask you. Which is more important, worshipping God or having lots of coins? Of course worshipping God is more important than having lots of money. In today’s story we are going to learn about some people that were supposed to be worshipping God. Instead of doing that they just started buying and selling things to make money. They forgot all about worshipping God.”
It was the time of year for the Passover celebrations in the city of Jerusalem. Every Jewish man was supposed to travel to Jerusalem to worship God and take part in special ceremonies at the temple.
Passover was a special time and Jesus looked forward to going to the temple. The temple was a holy place where people went to worship God. People offered sacrifices to God at the temple.
Jesus and his disciples walked to Jerusalem. His mother Mary and some of his brothers sent along too. They all looked forward to a special time in Jerusalem. They thought about the beautiful temple. They thought about how people would be worshipping God at the temple.
When Jesus arrived at the temple things were not as they were supposed to be. He did not see people worshipping God. The people were not treating the temple like a special place of God. Instead, the temple looked like a big market! Animals were making loud noises. Jesus heard cattle, sheep and doves. Some people were exchanging money and trying to cheat people.
The people were not thinking about God at all.
Jesus was very sad. He could not believe how people were treating God and God’s special place. He knew that it was not right. What do you think Jesus did? Do you think he ignored everyone? Do you think he just got angry and walked out?
Jesus did not do any of these things. He decided that someone had to tell these people that they were not right. Jesus decided to stand up for what was right.
So he made a whip out of cords and used it like a broom to wave at people while he chased them out of the temple. He shooed the animals away and he turned over the tables where the money was.
Jesus said, “Get those things out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!”
Everyone was surprised at what Jesus did. They did not like what he did but they knew that he was right. Jesus always stood up for what was right.
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download these illustrations and slideshow. Be selective. Each teacher is unique so only use the illustrations that best relate to the way YOU are telling the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- Why did the Jews go to the temple at Passover? To worship God
- Jesus was angry because the people had turned God’s house into what? A market
- What did Jesus do to when he saw that men had turned the temple courts into a market place? He made a whip out of cords and drove out all the animals, scattered the coins of the moneychangers, and turned over their tables.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Bring some toy animals and money to class today and let he children put on a play to show the story.
- The moneychangers were distracting all the people from the worship of God. Discuss ways that we might distract worshipers today during Sunday assemblies. How can we help people worship God?
- Older children can look up the temple in a bible encyclopaedia and find out which areas of the temple were areas restricted to worship.
- Discuss situations where children can stand up for what is right.
- Discuss the kinds of things that make us angry and compare to the kinds of things that made Jesus angry.
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and worksheets about Jesus cleansing the temple from calvarycurriculum.org
- Video to show children: 3D aerial tour of the temple as built by King Herod circa 70 AD (53 seconds) from youtube
- Video to show children: Virtual Reconstruction Of Second Temple Temple Mount (7 minutes 46 seconds) from youtube