We might conclude that the story of Jesus cleansing the Temple is about motivation. The merchants were motivated by greed. The Jews were motivated by skepticism. Even those who “believed” in Jesus were immature in motivation. Jesus challenges them all, as well as us, to have proper motivation, faith, and commitment.
The fact that merchants were in the temple was not the central problem for Jesus. When the Jews visited the Temple, they went in order to make sacrifices. In order to make the proper sacrifices, they had to have the appropriate oxen, sheep, and doves. The purchasing of animals was an ancient custom, however over time, this practise had shifted from its original intent into a money making venture.
The Jews had to exchange money in order to pay the tax. The tax was required for everyone over the age of twenty. Various kinds of coinage could be changed at the tables for the Palestinian half shekel required for this annual temple tax.
The problem was that greed, dishonesty, and extortion had taken over. The merchants had their sights only on their business and their profits. As a result, the merchants overlooked the sacred nature of the Temple site and moved their commerce from a location adjacent to the Temple, into the Court of the Gentiles. Its was this encroachment of the profane into what is holy that offended Jesus.
Of course Lent is a time for us all to check this distinction between the sacred and the profane. Is there a clear delineation in our own lives. What proportion of our time is set aside for sacred pursuits ?