Matthew 21: 12-13 – Cleansing of the Temple


Matthew while narrating the episode of the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus rearranges Mark’s sequence of events. That is, the cleansing of the Temple and the cursing of the sig tree, by setting them into two consecutive days. For Matthew the scene of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple is one of judgment and not exactly a cleansing episode. Why do I say this, because the Temple was already destroyed by the time of the writing of Matthew’s gospel. Therefore, the episode of the cleansing of the Temple, for Matthew, prophetically announces its destruction (judgement; 70 CE; cf. Mt 24, 2). It should also be noted that Matthew omits the phrase “for all the nations” which is found in Isaiah (Isa 56, 7) as quoted in Makran narrative.

This is probably because Matthew already sees the realization of the Church (New Temple) as a house of prayer of all the nations. Further Matthew adds the healing of the blind and the lame (Mt 21, 14), which indicates that the excluded are already part of the New Temple, the new community of Jesus. Matthew adds the reference to children who also acclaim Jesus as the true Messiah. Children, here, represent the lowly ones (little ones), which the Messiah had come to include in his new community (cf. Mt 19, 14).

The lowly and the outcast (excluded) represented here by the children who are now included by Jesus in the New Temple of God (the Christian Community) recognize him as the Messiah. They expressed it by “crying out” (Mt 21, 15).

Seeing Jesus’ actions and hearing the jubilant shouts of the children the Pharisees and Scribes becomes angry with Jesus and they question Jesus’ authority. Jesus poses a counter question quoting Psalm 8, 2. It once again echoes what is said in Matthew 11, 25-27., that the Father brings out from mere children the praise that issues forth from his revelation – which is a sharp contrast to the questioning of the self-righteous chief priests and scribes who only indulge in questioning. Matthew also notes that “Jesus left them and went out” this may mean a prophetic act of judgement since Matthew already knew about the destruction of the Temple.

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