The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” -John 2:13-16
The Temple, in the days of Jesus, was a thriving business enterprise as well as as a religious one. People would travel from all over the world to see this magnificent structure, this wonder of the Roman world, and make some offering there. That people would give to the Temple from their own native coin was not enough, however —the family of the High Priest wanted more. So they set up shop in the Courtyards of the Temple itself, exchanging “pagan” money for “Temple coin,” because only “Temple coin” was accepted in donations, and selling “pre-approved” sacrifices. After all, isn’t it easier to buy a sacrifice already approved by a priest than it is to have the animal you bring inspected and approved?
Jesus would have none of this.
He entered into the Temple and took possession of the courts with a whip, so that no-one could exchange money, or buy a “pre-approved” sacrifice.
In doing so, Jesus effectively claimed to be the Messiah. He connected himself with the Hasmonians, who had cleansed the Temple from Greek control 200 years earlier, with the Pharisees, who hated this Priestly racket, and with the prophecies of the Tanach about the Messiah.
But for those who didn’t think the Messiah was divine, Yeshua went one step further.
He called the Temple, “my Father’s house.”
To call someone your father is, of course, to say you are descended from him. But further, in that culture, it was to call yourself his equal, his likeness —to say, “your father is a thief,” is to say, “you are a thief.”
So here Jesus of Nazareth, at the very beginning of his public ministry, in the middle of the Passover Feast, proclaims himself to be the Son of God —or rather, the incarnation of God himself.