Mark 11:15-18: 15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
Yesterday we looked at Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We saw that the people welcomed Him with praises because they were under the assumption that He would liberate them from the Roman authorities. Jesus, however, had something different in mind.
The next day (Monday) Jesus heads straight to the temple and accuses the merchants of turning His house into a den of robbers. Jesus doesn’t attack the political leaders or social institutions as the people thought He would. He was more concerned with the spiritual health of the people and was righteously disgusted by what He saw going on.
But what was it that got Jesus so fired up?
People were using religion as a way to get rich. People who entered Jerusalem had to purchase animals to sacrifice at the temple. This, in itself, was not a bad thing. The problem was that the merchants were opening up shop right in the temple (an inappropriate place to do so) and charging outrageous prices for the animals.
In addition to this, if people did bring their own animals the priests would have to inspect them to make sure they were acceptable for sacrifice. The priests would often deem them “unclean” which would force people to have to purchase an animal from the temple merchants. The merchants would split their profits with the priests.
This was not the only way people were being exploited in the house of God. Travelers who came into Jerusalem had to exchange their currency in order to pay tithes and buy things. This exchange would take place at the temple and the priests would often give an unfair exchange rate, turning a profit for themselves. The temple became a breeding ground for people to manipulate God’s commands and use them for their own financial gain.
Not cool... Not cool at all.
Jesus’ reaction to these thieves serves as a reminder of the God we serve. Jesus is not a pushover. He does not tolerate injustice or the taking advantage of people. His anger in this moment was sinless, as His whole life was. And because He chose to do something about the situation, the priests became extremely angry at Him. Their anger, unlike His, was not so pure. He was interfering with their business, and they began looking for a way to get rid of Him.A big objection to “religion” in today’s society is that people use it simply as a way to take advantage of others. We must remember that Jesus had this same objection in His society. We have been called to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.