Jesus didn’t come into Jerusalem by stealth, quietly wooing and persuading people in private places. He strode boldly into the temple and promptly caused a scene:
He threw out those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves. He didn’t allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He taught them, “Hasn’t it been written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you’ve turned it into a hideout for crooks.” The chief priests and legal experts heard this and tried to find a way to destroy him. They regarded him as dangerous because the whole crowd was enthralled at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18, CEB)
Why did he do this? True, the merchants may have been gouging the Passover pilgrims unfairly. But that’s not the reason for Jesus’ tirade. He makes reference to Jeremiah 7 (see especially vs. 11), in which the prophet delivers a withering word of divine judgment against Judah. The people had taken God’s presence in the temple for granted while letting idolatry and injustice run rampant.
Jesus was condemning what the whole temple system had become. No wonder the chief priests and teachers of the law wanted Jesus out of the way. Instead of meekly dropping a card in the suggestion box, Jesus took the commanding role of a prophet and publicly called “Fraud!” No one wants to be on the receiving end of an accusation like that.
But I wonder: in our worship and supposed devotion, do we wrongly take God’s presence for granted and turn a blind eye to sin? What would Jesus say?
Lord, we want to be seen as “good religious people.” But we know secretly, even if others don’t, the areas in which we’ve let sin have free rein. We’ve defrauded each other and you. Overturn our defensiveness. Awaken us again to repentance and grace, that all our houses may be honest places of prayer. Amen.