Daily Archives: March 29, 2010

The Temple Cleansing

Monday of Passion Week

Mark 11:15-17 – 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. [16] And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. [17] 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.”

We come to Monday of Passion Week and one of the most famous of Jesus’ actions in all of His earthly ministry. It has become known as the “cleansing of the temple”. Jesus did this twice in His ministry, once at the beginning (John 2:13-17) and this one during Passion Week (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, Luke 19:45-46). His earthly ministry is bracketed by anger for His father’s glory and for people having their ability to worship God being robbed of them for the sake of money.

The text above is from Mark’s account of the event on Monday of Passion Week. Mark is the only one to record Jesus’ words “for all the nations” when He says “My Father’s house shall be called a house of prayer”. This is a quote from Isaiah 56:7. God’s house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.

It is not an insignificant point. The place where the marketing was taking place was the Court of the Gentiles. This is the court where Gentiles can worship the God of Israel.

Gentiles were not allowed past the Soreg, a short stone wall that enveloped the temple and marked the place beyond which Gentiles could not go, upon pain of death. Paul was accused of allowing Gentiles beyond the soreg in Acts 21:27-36 and a crowd of very angry people tried to kill him for it.

The Court of the Gentiles is, in part, a symbol of the fact that God even accepts Gentiles and not just ethnic Israel. He for all the nations of the world. That the Apostle John records Jesus’ first cleansing of the temple is significant in that John’s theme is that Jesus is the Saviour of the whole world. He came to save all the nations. He begins this work with a dramatic demonstration through the cleansing of the Gentile Court.

Now Jesus has entered Jerusalem to complete the work of winning back to God, people from all those nations. What He sees when He enters the temple area is people prohibiting Gentiles from any form of reverential worship because of the desire to make money.

What a grand picture! The whole sacrificial system instituted at Sinai is a picture of the work of Christ in dying in the place of sinners. That system is not that of a regional god with only regional concerns. God is the Creator of all that is. All mankind has come under the judgement of God and is guilty. He has provided a means by which people can receive forgiveness and mercy and acceptance with Him. It is portrayed throughout the Old Testament in many ways. The need for something better is seen all throughout the Old Testament. The blood of bulls and goats cannot deal with the massive problem of sin and our broken relationship with God. But what they portray can.

Jesus comes and lives the life of perfect obedience to all the Law of God. The wages of sin is death and since He has no sin He does not deserve death. He has not earned the wages. But He dies in the place of others who have earned them big time. And He pays the penalty in full for people from all the world. What Jesus did on the cross cannot be taken away by man’s feeble attempts to serve themselves instead of God. He comes and He triumphs over all the efforts of the evil one to prevent people from getting to Christ.

Jesus is not on a fool’s errand. He will not lose one of all that He is given. He overturns all the tables that prevent people from worshipping God. He succeeds in bringing sinners into the inner courts of the temple of God – into the very holy of holies – where no one, not Jew or Gentile can enter, except the High Priest.

Jesus is that priest. No need for a priest to sacrifice any more. No need for another mediator of any kind. The way is open. It was opened at the cross. And it is open for you if you will leave the foolishness of the tables that prevent your worship. Leave them behind and seek Him. He’s better.

Celebrate this great thing that Jesus did on that Passion Week Monday by finding satisfaction in Him, not in the sin that bars you from real worship.

And Christian – this week – give the liberating Gospel to everyone with whom you have opportunity this week. Direct people to Jesus Christ, who has cleared the way for truly approaching God through Him.