Take that to the Bank!
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
“Temples in the ancient Near East owned land, had employees of all sorts, and collected taxes. All evidence suggests that the Jerusalem temple at the time of the NT fits this model…The temple also functioned as a kind of bank for the safe deposit of valuables. As a result, the temple compound functioned as a kind of economic counterpoint to Rome, a situation Caesar grudgingly allowed in order to pacify the Jews… When the Jews finally revolted against Rome in AD 66-73, a critical part of Rome’s response was to destroy the temple and with it the economic, social, and religious structures it represented.” Archeology Study Bible (p 1455)
Jesus came in to see the temple the evening before, looked around, and then headed off to Bethany for the night. The next day, after cursing the fig tree, he enters the temple compound again and goes berserk. The Rabbi drives out both seller and buyer and turns over the tables of the money-exchanging sacrifice vendors. Note he also prevents people from carrying anything through the compound (maybe even their valuables).
After the kerfuffle, Jesus then begins teaching from the prophets, and we receive a combo platter of Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. He points out that the LORD intended the temple to be a “House of Prayer,” but the people have turned into a “den of robbers.” Ouch!
The day’s actions and teaching from our Lord don’t sit well with the chief priests and scribes and prompt them to start seeking a way to take Jesus out. Their motivation? FEAR! Jesus challenges their way of life and shakes the foundations of their power and influence before the people and Rome.
If you are a member of a Christian family, does your congregation resemble a “House of Prayer” or a “Den of Thieves?” You can assess this by looking at what the focus. Is it more about the economics and socialization of its members, often seen by inward-focused programming and expenditures, or more about loving God and outward-focused ministry? The latter would lean toward the “House of Prayer.” If it’s the former, let’s just say there is work to do.
You can take that to the Bank!
Feel free to shake us up at any time! We pray we will be teachable students rather than angry people trying to hang on to power!
I pray this in the name of the ultimate “Pot-Stirrer,” Jesus Christ. Amen!