When Jesus told his disciples he was going up to Jerusalem, they were excited, thinking he would announce the coming of his earthly kingdom. Then he went to the Temple, and cast out the merchants and thieves
Jesus’ messianic entrance into Jerusalem
(559) Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David.” Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass.” Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.
—Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 559
Below, I quote at some length from the great Church Father Origen (c. 184-c. 253), a profound mind, a lover of Christ, a passionate believer, one of the greatest of the Church Fathers. His speculations sometimes led him to positions which have been judged unorthodox. Still, Origen’s genius is acknowledged, especially in his detailed commentaries on Scripture. In the passages below, from Book 10 of his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Origen speaks about the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. Origen writes:
“In the Gospel according to Matthew, after being left by the devil, and after the angels came and ministered to Him, when He heard that John was delivered up, He withdrew into Galilee, and leaving Nazara He came and dwelt in Capernaum. Then He began to preach, and chose the four fishermen for His Apostles, and taught in the synagogues of the whole of Galilee and healed those who were brought to Him. Then He goes up into the mountain and speaks the Beatitudes and what follows them… (Matthew 8)… After this most of the events of the Gospels take place, before Matthew indicates the approach of the time of Passover.”
Origen notes that, in John’s Gospel, the cleansing of the Temple was Jesus’ second work, not one of His last works: “And Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” (John 2:13-17) “And He found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves and the changers of money sitting; and He made a scourge of cords, and cast out of the temple the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the small coin of the changers, and overturned their tables, and to those who sold the doves He said, ‘Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘The zeal of your house shall eat me up.’ It is to be noted that John makes this transaction of Jesus… His second work; while the other Evangelists narrate a similar incident almost at the end and in connection with the story of the Passion.”
Origen gives the parallel passages from Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 19, and suggests that John’s Gospel seems to speak of a second visit to Jerusalem, at the end of Jesus’ life, which would accord with these passages. He writes: “We read (Matthew 21:1): ‘When He drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage over against the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway you shall find an ass tied and a colt with her; loose them and bring them to Me. And if any man say unto you, What are you doing? You shall say, The Lord has need of them, and straightway he will send them. But this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king comes, meek and seated upon an ass and upon the colt of an ass. And the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.”
Origen continues: “Let us fix our attention on the words of John, beginning, ‘And Jesus went up to Jerusalem.’ (John 2:13) Now Jerusalem, as the Lord Himself teaches in the Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 5:35) is the city of the great King. It does not lie in a depression, or in a low situation, but is built on a high mountain, and there are mountains round about it… But that city also is called Jerusalem, to which none of those upon the earth ascends, nor goes in; but every soul that possesses by nature some elevation and some acuteness to perceive the things of the mind is a citizen of that city. And it is possible even for a dweller in Jerusalem to be in sin (for it is possible for even the acutest minds to sin), should they not turn round quickly after their sin, when they have lost their power of mind and are on the point not only of dwelling in one of those strange cities of Judæa, but even of being inscribed as its citizens.
“Jesus goes up to Jerusalem, after bringing help to those in Cana of Galilee, and then going down to Capernaum, that He may do in Jerusalem the things which are written. He found in the Temple, certainly, which is said to be the house of the Father of the Savior, that is, in the Church or in the preaching of thecclesiastical and sound word, some who were making His Father’s house a house of merchandise. And at all times Jesus finds some of this sort in the temple.
“For in that which is called the Church, which is the house of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15) when are there not some money-changers sitting who need the strokes of the scourge Jesus made of small cords, and dealers in small coin who require to have their money poured out and their tables overturned? When are there not those who are inclined to merchandise, but need to be held to the plough and the oxen, that… they may be fit for the kingdom of God?…
“And there are always many who look down on what is sincere and pure and unmixed with any bitterness or gall, and who, for the sake of miserable gain, betray the care of those tropically called doves.
“When, therefore, the Savior finds in the Temple, the house of His Father, those who are selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting, He drives them out, using the scourge of small cords which He has made, along with the sheep and oxen of their trade, and pours out their stock of coin, as not deserving to be kept together, so little is it worth. He also overturns the tables in the souls of such as love money, saying even to those who sell doves, Take these things hence, that they may no longer traffic in the house of God.”