A Temper in the Temple

Scripture: Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-48 and John 2:12-25

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn Jesus cleansed the Temple twice while he was one earth – the first time early in his ministry (John) and the second time three years later right before the Cross (Matthew, Mark and Luke).
  • Students will learn Jesus does not want religious leaders to use their positions to make money off of worshippers by stealing from them or putting a heavy financial burden on them.
  • Students will learn our first priority should always be to worship God, not to make money.
  • Students will participate in a Temple Courtyard Immersion to better understand why Jesus was upset at the Temple.

Guiding Question: How does not following the rules and doing wrong to other people make God unhappy?

Materials: Bible costumes (optional), situation cards, materials to match the situation you choose, play coins, adults to play the sellers

Procedure: Share the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple from the scriptures above. Explain that Jesus was upset because the religious leaders were not using their power in the right ways. They were doing others harm by cheating them and not acting in a godly way. The leaders were putting money over God but God wants us to always keep Him as the priority so we can have the best life possible. Tell students that the second time Jesus cleansed the Temple was right before the cross (refer to scriptures from Matthew, Mark, and John.) Tell the students they are going to go through an experience that will help them understand why Jesus was upset.

Set up a Temple Courtyards immersion experience. Have the students dress in Bible costumes if available. Give the older students cards describing their situation (Ex. You and your wife have come from a village 50 miles away. You are very poor and the money in your town is different from that used at the Temple. You must purchase a lamb to sacrifice as it was too far to bring one from home and the only ones available that meet the requirements for the sacrifice can only be bought at the Temple.) Younger students may be given a few “coins” with instructions to exchange for the correct currency and to buy animals to sacrifice. Make it very clear that it is of extreme importance that they complete their task before time is up for the activity. Have adults play the roles of the money changers and those who sold animals. Have them be very obvious in the ways they are cheating the students so the students realize they are being cheated. Students may become frustrated, but should not be frustrated to the point of tears or real emotional distress. After they complete their task, bring the students back together and discuss how they felt.

Remind students that today Christians can just pray and have their sins forgiven, but in Bible times you had to sacrifice specific things for specific reasons. If you didn’t, God would not be happy and sins were not forgiven. It was extremely important to the people that they obeyed God but the priests were making it extremely difficult for people to obey. Ask the students why they think Jesus was so angry and turned over the tables.

Additional Questions: How can students learn how it feels to be cheated so they learn why it is important to be honest with others?
Supplemental Activity: Have half of the students set up a pretend marketplace where they sell various “goods”. Instruct these students be inconsistent in their pricing to “cheat” others. Remind them this is just for the experience and is wrong to do in real life. Give the other half of the students pretend money (some students more than others) and have them go shop. After the experience, have the students come together and share their feelings. How did the shoppers feel and what hurt their feelings? How could the sellers been more honest with them? Ask the students why is it important to be honest with others.

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