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Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-47

Story Summary

(This story also occurs in Mark 11:15-19 and Luke 19:45-47. There is an instance of Jesus clearing the temple in John 2:13-16, but most believe this is recording a different event.)

To put this story in context, see this visualization of the chronology of Holy Week.

Like many of these events leading up to Jesus' death, burial and resurrection, they occur in most, if not all of the gospels. We strongly encourage you to read all of the accounts to get a full picture of the story. 

How did they get to a point where Jesus declared the holy temple a den of robbers? Let's go back to the establishment of the temple and some of the rules from the Old Testament. Reading through Leviticus and Deuteronomy, there were many different reasons for the Hebrew people to bring an animal sacrifice or grain offering from their harvest. These could be for ceremonial reasons (sin offerings, peace offerings and the like) or as a tithe of your harvest (either to provide for the temple and the priests, or to throw a big party).

In Deuteronomy 14:24-26, we begin to see an allowance for those who might live far from the temple and for whom it might be difficult to bring a perfect lamb, live birds, or a large amount of grain. It was simple: sell what you are going to offer in your hometown, then take the money to Jerusalem and exchange it there for something to offer. So fast forward to Jesus' day and you can imagine that this became a normal part of life for Jews through the Diaspora (Jews that did not live in Israel). 

Why was Jesus angry with them? What gave him reason to accuse them of turning his Father's house into a den of thieves? Simply put, we don't really know. Here are some possible ideas:

  • They may have been taking advantage of the people who were coming to worship at the temple, charging them too much because they had a captive market (think spending $6 on popcorn at a movie theater).
  • They may have been selling animals that were sick or lame. Old Testament law strictly requires animals to be perfect. Perhaps Jesus was just as angry at the people coming to worship as he was at the people selling? Maybe they were more than willing to purchase sick animals on the cheap?

Another question that this story raises is whether Jesus sinned when he cleared the temple. The thought of Jesus in a rage of anger, throwing tables around and yelling at people is at odds with the image many of us have of Jesus with chubby kids sitting on his knee. So, did he sin?

Whenever we come across hard passages of scripture, like this one, we should look to other scriptures to help us interpret it. Jesus did not sin. Here's why:

What we see in this story is the God of the universe expressing his extreme displeasure in a people who had strayed so far from the spirit of the law he had given them.

Some might be tempted to not teach this story at all to children, for fear of casting Jesus in a negative light. But God has not asked us to be his public relations. He chose to include this story in his word. In this story, we see Jesus bringing the judgment of God against those who had so perverted the law he gave to Moses. It is important to remember "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15) and that without receiving Christ's forgiveness, we are condemned.

What You Will Need

Resource Sheet

Jesus Clears the Temple Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts Jesus clearing the temple and the merchants searching for their money and items they were selling.

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

Have you ever been angry at a family member or friend? Did you have a right to be angry? What did you do when you were angry? Do you think you did anything wrong when you were angry?

Today, we are going to learn about a time when Jesus was angry. 

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.

For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Matthew 21:12-17

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • What did Jesus do when he entered the temple? (he drove out those who were selling and overturned their tables)
  • Why was he so angry? (we don't really know, but he accused them of turning his Father's house into a den of robbers)
  • Why were the Pharisees upset at Jesus? (because even though he did this, the people still loved him because he was healing them)
  • Did Jesus sin when he was angry? (no - see above for why)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • In this story, we learn that Jesus got angry when he saw people taking advantage of others in the temple.
  • God loves us and forgives our sins. But we should remember that God is also just - which means that he doesn't overlook sin. He still judges us as sinful.
  • But he poured out all his righteous anger and punishment on Jesus to make forgiveness available to us.
  • Have you accepted Jesus' forgiveness for the times you have broken his rules?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
Scripture says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

Reinforcement Activities

Lego Temple

Scripture Jesus entered the temple area. He began chasing out all those who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of the people who were exchanging money. He also turned over the benches of those who were selling doves. Matthew 21:12

Supplies lots of Legos

  • Provide pictures of Herod's temple.
  • Divide students into small groups or work as individuals.
  • Give each group a large pile of Legos.
  • Ask them to build a replica of the temple.

House of Prayer

Scripture Then he taught them. He told them, “It is written that the Lord said, “‘My house will be called a house where people from all nations can pray.’ (Isaiah 56:7) But you have made it a ‘den for robbers.’” (Jeremiah 7:11) Mark 11:17

  • Spend time praying with your students.
  • Younger students can draw a picture of something they would like to pray about before they pray.
  • Gather students in a circle and ask them to pray for the person on their left.
  • Provide a notebook in your classroom for students to list their prayer requests. This makes it easier to read through prior to prayer time, without the students telling long stories that make it hard for others to sit through.

Homemade change purse

Scripture Deuteronomy 14:22-26

Supplies old jean pockets, brads, cord, scissors, buttons, glitter or other embellishments

  • Follow directions to make a small coin purse out of an old blue jean pocket.
  • See story above for Deuteronomy 14:24-26.
  • Students can use the coin purse to bring their offering to the church.

Look at Foreign Coins

Scripture Jesus entered the temple area. He began chasing out all those who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of the people who were exchanging money. He also turned over the benches of those who were selling doves. Matthew 21:12

Supplies foreign coins

  • Bring in coins from other countries.
  • Allow students to explore the coins and look for differences and unique attributes.
  • Explain what was going on in the temple regarding the exchange of money. (See story summary)

Is it okay to be angry?

Scripture Jesus entered the temple area. He began chasing out all those who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of the people who were exchanging money. He also turned over the benches of those who were selling doves. Matthew 21:12

  • In this activity, you are going to ask the students yes or no questions. They will answer by walking to one corner of the room or another.
  • Designate one corner of the room as the "Yes" corner, and another as the "No" corner.
  • Start by asking them - Is it okay to be angry? Is it a sin to be angry?
  • The answer is "No". Refer to the story summary above for a discussion on this, but the point they need to understand is that it is only a sin to be angry if you respond to it in a sinful way.
  • Then, tell them the following list of things they might do when they are angry. If it is an okay response to anger, they should go to the "Yes" corner. If it is not okay (a sin), they should go to the "No" corner.
    • Punch a pillow (Yes)
    • Yell at the person you are angry at to make them feel bad (No)
    • Cry (Yes)
    • Tell other people what someone did to you so others will be mad at that person (No)
    • Talk to your parents and tell them why you are angry (Yes)
    • Hurt yourself or someone else (No)
    • Spend time with a pet (Yes)
    • Destroy or break something that belongs to the person you are angry at (No)
    • Talk to or hug a stuffed animal (Yes)

Graham Cracker Temple

Heads up! This is a repeat of an activity from Solomon & Building the Temple in the Old Testament

Scripture Jesus entered the temple area. He began chasing out all those who were buying and selling there. He turned over the tables of the people who were exchanging money. He also turned over the benches of those who were selling doves. Matthew 21:12

Supplies Graham Crackers, icing

  • Break graham crackers into 4th's.
  • Use icing like glue to make the crackers stand up.
  • Direct students to build a temple.
  • Enjoy!