House of prayer (part 1)
It was time for the Passover celebration, and Jews from all over the world were in Jerusalem. For those coming from out of town, they would not have brought the appropriate sacrificial animal with them on their journey. Additionally, they would not have had the local money used to pay the required half-shekel temple tax. As such, these items needed to be purchased.
While space for the housing, inspecting, and purchasing of the animals was necessary – a prescribed sacrifice was a spotless lamb, or two pigeons if you were poor – it seems that Israel’s leaders had decided to accommodate the large crowds by moving the commerce area into the temple complex.
Unknown to everyone, this Passover week was different from any previous celebrations. Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem had just occurred. And one of the first things He does when He gets to town is visit the temple.
Mark 11:15-16 They came to Jerusalem, and He went into the temple complex and began to throw out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the money changers’ tables and the chairs of those selling doves, and would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple complex.
Notice that Jesus was throwing out both the buyers and the sellers. Jesus wasn’t condemning what they were doing – but it was their choice of location that betrayed their attitude toward God.
Jesus’ house-cleaning was symbolic of the restoration needed in their relationship with God. Commerce and facilitating religious activities had taken the place of what was supposed to be the true aim of the temple location – the meeting with and worship of Almighty God.
After clearing some space, Jesus had everyone’s attention:
Mark 11:17 Then He began to teach them: “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!”
Jesus’ question cuts to the heart of the matter – Do you remember why you are here at the temple?
We could ask ourselves some similar questions:
· What do our activities within our church buildings say about our attitude toward God? Are we there to worship? Are we there to pray?
· Do we come to church on Sunday expecting to meet with God and offer him praise…or do we go expecting to meet with friends and hope that we can get something useful out of the message?
These are tough questions, but ones that need answered. Perhaps it’s time to do some house-cleaning within ourselves.