It’s Paul’s approach that I find interesting here as well. He basically tells his listeners that he didn’t come with big, fancy words, but with the basic concept of a crucified Lord. It was the story of a God who humbled himself, and was humiliated by the powers of this world. It was the story of a God who died for those he loved. It was the story of a Christ who presented his weaknesses to the world to show them the strength of his desire to redeem them. And Paul did all of this while he, himself, was afraid, trembling in the fear of his own weaknesses. But that’s what Paul wanted. His approach was to let others see the power of God in his actions, and not in his fancy and persuasive words.
This question by these money changers and livestock peddlers is essentially the same as those who complain about Cancel Culture. Rather than take the public outrage as a correction, and a chance to learn, they push back, attempting to prove their innocence. It’s not my fault; I did nothing wrong; why would someone do this to me; don’t they recognize that they are infringing on my right to live and make money?; I’m the victim here.
What motivates us to enter into these self-congratulatory states of inflated valuations of our own self-worth? We may indeed be better than some – by our own standards – but by our own standards we are also worse than others (Matt 7:1-2). Yet we still try and congratulate ourselves on our own righteousness, when standing before the God who reconciled us to Himself, no less.