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“And they came to Jerusalem. 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. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “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.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.” (Mark 11:15–19)
For Israel, the temple was the place of worship. God had given king Solomon specific directions for its construction, and He had promised to manifest His glory to His people in this impressive building. This is where sacrifices were brought, and it was where the ark of God’s presence was located. Here Israel encountered the Lord’s covenant love, His atoning mercy, and His incomparable holiness. That Jesus would enter the temple on Monday of Holy Week was therefore not a surprise. What He did and said at the temple was a surprise.
This house where God said He would put His name had, according to Jesus, become a “den of robbers” (Mark 11:17; Jeremiah 7:11). Merchants were using the temple for the exchange of money and for the sale of animals to be sacrificed, probably at a good profit. This business should have been carried out honestly outside the temple in preparation for Passover. Instead, the buying and selling in the outer court of the temple was actually preventing the Gentiles from joining in worship.
Seeing this, Jesus began turning over tables and driving out those who were doing business. He reminded them of Isaiah’s words centuries earlier: the temple was intended to be “a house of prayer for all nations” (Mark 11:17; Isaiah 56:7). Sadly, it had become a place of greed. The chief priests and scribes responded by trying to destroy Jesus (Mark 11:18).
Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is a warning to all who would pollute the worship of the One True God. We dare not remove God from the center of our worship for our own personal gain. No one can serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).
For those with eyes to see, Jesus’ actions on this Monday also reveal His identity. He was the one spoken of by the prophet Malachi:
. . . And the Lord whom you you seek will suddenly come to his temple . . . But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fuller’s soap. (Malachi 3:1–2, emphasis added)
Malachi said it was the “Lord” who would come to His temple. Jesus’ actions, therefore, were not simply that of a religious zealot who lost his temper. No, this was the Sovereign Lord who had come to “his temple” (Malachi 3:1, emphasis added). He would bring judgment to those who rejected God and refining for those who were willing to submit (Malachi 3:2–5).
Jesus’ temple cleansing on Monday was a preview of God’s coming judgment. Decades later, in 70 A.D., God used the Romans to destroy this very temple in Jerusalem. Yet even this was a preview of things to come. Christ’s actions remind us that He is the Lord of all who will bring final judgment. Let us, then, bow before Him in faith and repentance, our Judge and our Savior.
(This article created with the assistance of David Burnette.)