Summary: As Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly, He entered the Temple, considering what He saw. Being displeased with much that was going on, He returned on Monday to set His Father's house in order.
Cleansing the Temple
Mark 11: 15-19
In our last study we discussed Jesus cursing the fig tree as He made His way to Jerusalem. While this was a physical act, it had spiritual implications. Jesus cursed the fig tree as He and the disciples were headed to the Temple on what most agree was Monday morning of Passion Week.
Jesus had entered Jerusalem triumphantly on Sunday. Apparently, He noticed some activity within the Temple that needed to be addressed. Mark 11:11 – And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. Jesus returned on Monday morning to deal with the issues that were going on in the Temple.
In our modern day, many desire the Lord to “show up” in our services. While I understand that every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I also know it is a blessing to experience the presence of the Lord when we gather for worship. On this faithful morning, Jesus had not gone to the Temple to offer His blessing; He had gone to deal with those who deserved judgment. He went to Jerusalem to set His Father’s house in order. This should stand as a challenge to every local congregation throughout the world. We have come together in the Lord’s house, to worship Him. We must ensure that everything is done in accordance to His Word and pleasing to Him. As we examine the activities that transpired that day, I want to consider: Cleansing the Temple.
I. The Authority of Jesus (15-17) – These verses reveal Jesus’ arrival at the Temple in Jerusalem and the way He dealt with the activities that were taking place there. Consider:
A. The Position (15a) – And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple. While most imagine Jesus going into the area of the Temple where the priests ministered, that was actually not the case. The word translated temple in the text actually speaks of the outer court, the entire Temple enclosure, not just the Sanctuary itself. Some scholars estimate this area would have been between fourteen and twenty acres in size. No doubt this area is much larger than the average reader would imagine. It appears to me that there was almost a carnival feel to this area – more like a downtown market than an area within the Temple court.
B. The Confrontation (15) – And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves. As Jesus entered the Temple court, He immediately confronted those who used the area for personal and financial gain. This is a clear contradiction to the weak and timid Jesus some men like to preach. While He was a Lord of compassion and grace, He was also a God of holiness and righteous indignation.
At this time, sacrifices were still being offered in Temple worship. Since many of the Jews would have traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover, the high priest had developed a convenient way for them to acquire their sacrifices. The sacrifices had to meet specific standards in order to be accepted. Those who traveled great distances had a risk of their sacrifice being injured on the journey and declared unacceptable. The merchants were set up within the outer court, selling “acceptable” sacrifices to the people. This included the selling of doves – an acceptable sacrifice for those who were to poor to offer sheep, goats, or bulls.
Jesus also confronted the moneychangers within the Temple court. The Jewish males were required to pay a one-half shekel Temple tax. This practice was instituted when Nehemiah restored the city, and remained an annual tax, about one-half of an ounce of silver. The Temple tax had to be paid in Jewish currency. The moneychangers were there to exchange whatever currency the travelers had into Jewish shekels.
C. The Restriction (16) – And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. We must keep in mind that the Temple grounds covered a large area. Rather than walking around the outer court of the Temple, people frequently cut through the outer court to shorten the distance they had to travel. The Temple grounds had become a short-cut for many who did business in and around Jerusalem. Jesus refused to allow anyone to cut through this area, if they were not there to visit the Temple and worship.
Clearly these practices were acceptable to the high priest and those who attended the Temple. They thought nothing of the activities going on within the Temple court. Based on what we have discussed thus far, you may see nothing wrong with what was going on in that day. Jesus addressed the issue with a stinging rebuke. Notice lastly: