The first place Jesus goes is to the temple. Now the Gospel of John records this in the beginning of Jesus’ ministry but I don’t think chronology was John’s concern and I really don’t believe that the Sadducees, who ran the temple and it’s markets, would allow Christ to do this twice. So anyway… Jesus rolls up into the temple and he is not happy with what he sees. The High Priests had been buying the priesthood from their Roman benefactors and were paying for the lucrative concession rights.
Jesus drives out the money changers. Imagine you have traveled from far off as an obedient Jew to visit the temple of God. Well, you’re not from Israel and you don’t carry their currency. Well, no problem, weary traveler. Boy, have we got a deal for you. Just exchange your money for ours so that you can buy the sacrifices you need to be right with God. Oh, and by the way, we going to have to charge you and pretty hefty fee for the service. Sorry.— This is probably not what the Lord had in mind. We also see Christ drive out those who were selling doves. Doves were the sacrifice of the poor, the lepers and women. But these holy men were making these people pay three times the amount that the doves usually cost. And if the women or the poor brought their own, they were often found to be “unworthy” for sacrifice and disqualified. It was quite the racket.
Jesus is taking a stand in defining the law’s true purpose versus what the religious leaders had turned it into. It was to be a way to point people towards their dependence on God, not a way to set up a den of robbers. This is not the first time or the last that people will be cheated out of their money, time, even their identity under the guise of religion. There are still those who try to use God to further their own means. These thieves are better thought of as insurrectionists. An active rebelling against God. Woe to us when we allow that to exist, when we allow the name of God to be sullied in the world.