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; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. 18 And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. 19 And when even was come, he went out of the city. (Mark 11:15-19)
Mondays usually pass quietly for most people. Everybody is getting back into the routine at work and most are coming up to speed. Of course, the pace quickens through the day and week but Monday is usually one of the quieter days of the week. Not so for Jesus.
After such a seemingly successful day on Sunday – at least in the disciple’s eyes – what would He now do? Interrupt the Sanhedrin and claim the Kingdom? Peter, James, and John probably shared visions of political success after such an entry into the city the day before. All evening, I am sure, they and the others kept assuring themselves that the big event was just around the corner. Anytime now, especially with public sentiment behind him, Jesus was sure to establish the Kingdom and claim His throne, throwing off the yoke of Rome. After all, didn’t they all show up, lining the streets and singing His praises on Sunday? The people were on His side and the city could be His. But what did Jesus do with such an opportunity? What was the first statement He made with the whole town listening? He declared His Father’s passion for the nations to come and worship Him.
Into the temple with whip in hand, he quickly over turned tables and upset the corrupt commerce taking place. I can imagine the doves flapping their wings, sending dust and feathers flying, the cattle clambering, kicking and knocking over the tables. And as the dust settled, I can hear the tinkle of the last shekel rolling in a circle and dropping over on the stone. In that quiet moment of deafening silence, He spoke of why He had done what He did. “My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Many preach as though the primary concern of Christ was the commerce, the huckstering of religion, and the filthy profits made by those pandering their wares. But before He called them thieves, did you notice what He said – what He said first? His concern was that this very space they occupied with their corrupt marketing was to be reserved as a space for the Gentile nations to come and see who God was, what He was like, and how He could save them from their sin. In the New Testament, we are commissioned to “Go and tell” about Christ. But Israel had been raised up so that the nations may “Come and see” the Christ. How could they when Israel had become so self-centered that they used the very revelation God had given to them only – and the access to it – for their own profit and not for the glory of God? The house of God that all nations were to know as their “house of prayer” and which was the access to His grace and glory had become their 7 Eleven, a franchise to be used for personal gain. Doubtless, it was a “den of thieves” for they were not only fleecing the people who came to worship but also robbing God of the very glory He passionately wanted them to see and know – His glory and the glory of His Son which would lead to their salvation and personal redemption. They had robbed the nations of a glimpse, and per chance, a grasp of God’s grace. As noted by the apostles earlier in John’s gospel, the Messiah would be one full of passion and zeal for the Father’s house. So it says “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (Psalm 69:9) Why so passionate about a building? Because of the message and story it told. Or that it was suppose to be telling.
So, had you been an apostle, what would you have recommended He do after His triumphant entry with all public sentiment behind and his popularity at its high point? Lay out the Kingdom agenda? Appoint your cabinet now (James and John in the first seats of course!)? What did Jesus do when He held populist power in His hand – He acted for the nations God’s people had forgotten. He sternly rebuked them for burying the Gospel and access to it under with self-centered commercialism. This mattered deeply to Christ. This was so basic and primary to Him, it was the first thing He did once seen as a popular political figure. Though politically incorrect and though it stirred the priests to plot His death, He stood up for the nations and their need to see God. Do you?
What is it you are most passionate about and what would you do if you held the power of the people in your hand? May God stir us, the living stones of His New Testament House, with this zeal to make Him known.