Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Translated by Allan Liang
God chose the Israelites to be his people, and among his greatest blessings was the promise that he would dwell with them. In the times of Moses where the Israelites lived in the wilderness, the symbol of God’s presence was the Tabernacle. Starting from Solomon’s time, God's presence was symbolized by the temple in Jerusalem. In Jesus’ time, the temple in Jerusalem was reconstructed by Herod the Great in 20 BC, and completed in 64 AD. Herod the Great reconstructed the temple not out of fear of God but rather, out of the desire to win over the support of the Israelites for his rule. Furthermore, the priests and Sadducees turned the people’s exchange of animals and doves for sacrifices into a means of personal gain. What could not be tolerated was this: Such exchange took place in the area of the temple which served as the sanctuary for the gentile peoples. This place was originally prepared for the gentiles to worship the LORD, but the priests made this place into a noisy marketplace. The Israelites were not concerned, for they looked down on gentiles, thinking that gentile peoples were not worthy to know the name of the LORD. But what they did not know was that their actions went against God’s will, and corrupted the glorious and majestic name of God among the gentiles. “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7). God is a consuming fire, and cannot be deceived. The Gospels mention two instances of Jesus furiously cleansing the temple. The first instance occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (John 2:12-22). That time, Jesus drove the animals out of the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers, saying: “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16) Here, Jesus’ meaning is very clear: this is the sanctuary for the gentiles, and is also my Father’s house - most certainly not a place for buying and selling. Today in the Gospel of Mark we read of Scripture that describes Jesus’ cleansing of the temple which happened during his last arrival at Jerusalem. This event is recorded in two other Gospel books as well, revealing it to be of great importance (Mathew 21:12-17, Luke 19:45-47). Jesus’ actions of cleansing this time closely resembled his actions the previous time, however, this time it is specifically mentioned that he ”would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts” (verse 16). What does this mean? It was the case that while the Israelites moved merchandise back and forth, for the sake of convenience, the sanctuary for the gentiles would be used as a shortcut. In light of this, how would the gentiles who desired the name of the God of the Israelites feel? Jesus taught them, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” (Isaiah 56:7) Jesus rebuked the pride and arrogance of the Israelites, who thought that the temple solely belonged to Israel and had nothing to do with the nations of the world. How severe was their error! O see, this is what the LORD says: “Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people’..... to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name.” (Isaiah 56:3,5). For the purpose of God’s calling of Abraham was that “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18) Why then did this descendant, particularly after the coming of our Lord Jesus, not rejoice knowing that through this temple, all nations on earth will be blessed? Jesus proceeded in using another passage from Scripture: “Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you?” (Jeremiah 7:11), sternly rebuking the priests for their greed and corruption involving the buying and selling of items used for sacrifice. Jesus knew the results of saying these words. As expected, in their fury, the chief priests took the initiative for the first time and aligned with the teachers of the law who since long ago, wanted to kill Jesus, and together conspired how to accomplish this (Mark 11:18). Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus was hated by the Jews in those times because he revealed to them that they could not be saved solely on the basis of being Abraham’s descendants and the law handed from Moses. But all who believed that “Jesus is the Christ, whose name is the Son of God” would be saved, including all those chosen by God from all nations, before the creation of the world. This includes you and also includes me. How unthinkable is this! Please pray and reflect during meditation: Why did Jesus specifically point out that the sanctuary for the gentiles could not be looked down upon, for here was the house of prayer for all nations? Where is that house today? Are you in it?