Gospel Reading: Mark 11:12-19, Matthew 21:18-22, Luke 19:45-17
Mark tends to give us the best timeline for the events in Jesus’ final week. He mentions that Jesus came into Jerusalem and first goes to the temple and leaves in the evening and spends the night in Bethany. This makes sense because in John’s gospel, Jesus is friends with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha who live in Bethany. This is where John says Jesus stayed the night before coming to Jerusalem and Mary had poured perfume on his feet.
On Monday, Jesus went back to the temple and on his way he notices a fig tree which is not in season to bear fruit. Seeing that there was no fruit, Jesus cures the tree and tells it that it can no longer bear fruit. Then Jesus reaches the temple area and begins driving out those who are buying and selling things. He even overturns the tables of the money changes and the benches of those selling doves. There were things flying everywhere as Jesus seems to be having a fit of rage. He then quotes from two Old Testament passages, from Isaiah 56:7 which says that the temple will be a place of prayer for all nations and Jeremiah 7:11 in which Jeremiah tells the Jews that they have made the temple a den of robbers.
In understanding this passage it may help to remember that Gentiles (non-Jewish folks) were not allowed to go into certain areas of the temple, so they had to come and pray in the temple court area. This is the location that Jesus has found people buying and selling things. The temple court had basically become a market place and a popular short cut for those walking in and around Jerusalem. This obviously upset Jesus.
I do think there is more to this passage than just Jesus’ “righteous Indignation.” I think this display by Jesus was calculated. Notice that Jesus was not just reacting to this out of anger. He had witnessed all of this the day before and left without doing anything. The next day, Jesus responds to the obvious injustices he sees by cleaning house.
I also think his response is hinted at by Mark’s telling of Jesus cursing the fig tree. Before getting to the temple, Jesus notices the fig tree, which is not bearing fruit, so he curses it. In the same way, Jesus finds the temple not bearing fruit so he acts out a prophecy in which he is telling those around him that the temple will one day be destroyed.
As we prepare for our first full worship service in the new building, I pray that as we begin having worship there, God will find it a place that bears fruit. I pray that authentic worship will happen, causing the people who worship there to reach out in love and concern for the community around us. I pray that this building will be more than beautiful architecture and excellent audio/visual capabilities. I pray this building will lead people to a deeper commitment of faith to Jesus Christ.