Summary: The Gentile Court was the temple access point for Gentiles to learn about Judaism, and since believers are now the spiritual temple, how might Jesus seek to confront us and clear our lives of the clutter that prevents our effective witness?
COURAGE TO CONFRONT – JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE Mark 11:1-11:19
When did you last witness blatant wrongdoing and step in to do something about it?
• It may have been to do with malpractice in the workplace and you became the whistle-blower.
• It could be that you witnessed a dispute between two people and you became the peacemaker.
• Or it might well be the case that you discovered a situation that you felt very strongly should be corrected, but you didn’t find the courage to challenge it.
Sometimes it is not wise not to interfere in certain situations, such as in a street fight between two crazed and violent drunks.
Proverbs 26:17 tells us , ‘Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.’
So we should be cautious.
But there are other situations of injustice that develop which God may well call upon us as Christians to confront in order to end injustices for the sake of the poor and disenfranchised.
Today, on Palm Sunday, we are going to witness how Jesus went about it.
READING Mark 11:1 – 11:19
How brave are you at handling confrontation? I imagine that it is easier for people in the police or the armed forces to engage in confrontation because their authority is recognized and they are trained to do it.
The same may be true for line managers in the workplace. But most of us do not find it easy to confront wrongdoing, especially when we sense that those we are about to challenge may question our authority to do so.
Sinful human nature has always tended to challenge, and then cross the boundaries that mark out the distinction between right and wrong. We see it in infants who challenge the authority of parents. Israel constantly strayed from the path that the Lord has showed them to follow during the time of the Judges – worshiping other gods and incurring God’s wrath as a result.
This pushing of the boundaries took place even at the very centre of Jewish spiritual and religious life at the temple in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day.
As Jesus approached Jerusalem on what we know as Palm Sunday, he was about to make a statement. And although the religious authorities continuously questioned his authority to do what he did and say what he said, Jesus was not afraid to confront sin at the heart of Israel’s spiritual life because he had been given authority to do so by God the Father.
If Jesus were to challenge something in the church of today in the same way that he confronted the traders in the Gentile Court of the temple, what might it be?
Would he challenge anything in your life or mine?
Last Sunday we read the account of the Triumphal Entry and we compared the deep devotion Mary showed to Jesus with the ‘hosannas’ of the crowds, most of whom had little or no idea what kind of a Saviour Jesus had come to be.
Jesus was acting in fulfillment of the prophecy found in
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
As he travelled on his way to Jerusalem Jesus, knowing that the people did not recognize the time of God’s coming to them, wept from the heart over the people of Jerusalem as it came into view. He could see ahead to the time when in AD 70 Jerusalem would be destroyed and the people would be killed in their homes. He said,
"If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you." Luke 19:42-44
The people would have associated what Jesus was doing with Simon Maccabeus who entered Jerusalem this way in order to restore Jerusalem after it had been invaded and corrupted by Antiochus Epiphanes. Even though Jesus rode in on a donkey and not a horse they thought of him as a warlord.
But Jesus did have an act of confrontation in mind – but not the kind the people expected.
Craig Bartholomew in ‘The Drama of Scripture’ tells us that there was always a close connection between religion and politics in the ancient Near East, and the entry of a victorious king would often be followed by some kind of action in the temple.