Greetings from Faith Lutheran Church in Eldorado.
This and following articles will focus on significant actions of Jesus during Holy Week. The first significant act and the topic of this article is "Jesus cleansing the temple."
This occurred on Monday following Palm Sunday. Mark 11:15 reads, "And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons." (ESV)
Passover was about to be celebrated. Jews and God-fearing Gentiles from various places came to celebrate and make sacrifices to God. Animals approved by the Law of Moses and priests were being sold by merchants at inflated prices and there is evidence that the priests at times receive a kickback for allowing this buying and selling.
Both the merchants and temple offerings had to be done with shekels of Tyre minted in Jerusalem only. So, enter the "money changers." Not that there is anything evil about converting on currency into another but again, the fees they charged were exorbitant.
Verse 16 reads, "And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple." (ESV) What was being carried? Dr. James Volez of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis believes that these were sacred vessels. Zechariah 14:21 refers to sacred vessels needed for temple rituals with a probation on traders selling them in the house of the Lord.
Jesus then speaks, "'Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers.'" Mark 11:17 (ESV) Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.
Do not think of the temple like modern day churches where one congregates within to worship. Only the priests went into the actual temple. There were courts around the temple where people congregated -- the court of men, women and finally Gentiles or nations. The courts of Gentiles or nations is where the selling was occurring. This activity was stopping God-fearers from being able to come in and pray. Jesus was not only concerned with the fleecing of the faithful in a sacred space but denying access to those who wanted to pray.
One more point, Jesus calls the temple "My house." Yes, it is part of the quotation from Isaiah 56:7 but it also applies to Jesus. It is the Father's house, but it is also the house of His Son.
During Passover, every Jewish family was to cleanse their house of yeast. Yeast was synonymous with evil. Jesus is cleansing the house of him and His Father. We are also the temple of God.
During Lent we examine our life and look to Christ to cleanse us from our vices found in thought, word, and deed. The prayer of David from Psalm 51 is fitting during Lent. "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Psalms 51:7 (NIV)