Monday – A House of Prayer for All Nations!
Mark 11: 15-18a (NLT version)
15 When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, 16 and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace. 17He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves.” 18When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him.
Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and was crucified later the same week on the Friday. What on earth happened in between?
We know that he had a final supper with his friends and that he washed their feet. We know that he cursed a fig tree and that he wept over the city of Jerusalem. Yet, those actions don’t really seem like the sort of things that would get someone executed. What might step things up a bit more are the events of Marks Gospel when Jesus walked into the Temple and turned over the tables of the money-changers. Jesus’ actions in the Temple are a crucial part of the Holy Week story and show Jesus’ radical agenda – an agenda that would not just turn the tables upside down, but that had the capacity to turn the world upside down.
So….the day after Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem, he heads to the Temple. He is so enraged by what he finds that he pushes over the tables of the money changers, scatters the money and drives the traders out with whips!
This is not how we think of Jesus! What has made him act this way?
It is thought that this incident happened at Solomon’s Porch, the outermost part on the east side of the Temple and the gateway to the Court of the Gentiles. This had become a noisy, crowded market full of hustle and bustle and probably quite smelly from all the animals! Yet, Jesus wasn’t opposed to markets…so what was the problem?
An inscription uncovered by archaeologists may help us understand. The inscription found in the Court of the Gentiles is dated 20 B.C. and warns Gentiles (non-Jews) that they must not go any further into the Temple…‘on fear of death.’ The only place that the Gentiles were permitted to worship was in this outer part of the Temple, but how could they possibly pray and worship God in the middle of a noisy, crowded market?! A little research shows that the whole layout and practices of the Temple served to successively exclude different categories of people. In this case, the Gentiles were effectively being prohibited from worshipping.
People were being stopped from coming closer to God! This was a huge injustice and a huge sin, albeit perhaps, an inadvertent one!
Quoting Isaiah 56:7, Jesus said ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ (Mark 11:17).
Spend a few minutes thinking or discussing:
What barriers do we (perhaps inadvertently) put up that might make it harder for people that are ‘not like us’ to worship or to come closer to Jesus?
How, individually and as a congregation, can we build more bridges to our community and to those who do not yet know Jesus? How can we dismantle the walls that might serve to hinder them getting closer to Jesus?
You might want to write down some of these thoughts and pray about them over the coming days. Why not ask God to show you anything that you or that we, as a church, could or should do about it?
The Bible tells us that Jesus was bringing in a new covenant (agreement) with humanity in which animal sacrifice would be replaced by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus’ life on the cross. He would be the ‘Passover Lamb’ and he would atone for human sin once and for all. This means that all the damage that our sin has done can be repaired. Through Christ, we can be new creations!
Jesus cleansed the Temple because of sinful activities that got in the way of all people being able to truly worship God. Is there anything more important in your life than your relationship with Jesus? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any things that may be encroaching on your relationship with God and ask him to help you clear away any attitudes, actions or inactions that have started to come between you and him?