So they came to Jerusalem. Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the Temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the Temple. Then He taught, saying, ‘Is it not written, ‘My House shall be called a House of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of thieves.’ Mark 11.15-17
‘My House shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’ is a quotation from Isaiah 56, and ‘a den of thieves’ is from Jeremiah 7:
Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant, even them I will bring to My holy Mountain, and make them joyful in My House of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My House shall be called a House of prayer for all nations.
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ... Has this House, which is called by My Name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? I have seen it, says the LORD...and now, because you have done all these works, and I spoke to you, but you did not hear, I called you, but you did not answer…...My anger will be poured out on this place….and it will burn and not be quenched. Jeremiah 7.11-20
These two short quotations reveal a fascinating answer to why Jesus ‘cleansed’ the Temple. It is important to remember that whenever Jesus quoted a verse or a phrase from the Old Testament, He was referring to the whole passage, not just to a particular verse. The passage in Mark 11.15-17 suggests some questions:
· Why were ‘the money changers’ changing money?
· Why did Jesus ‘drive out the money changers’?
The reason that ‘the money changers’ were changing money was because the annual Temple Tax was paid in the month before Passover:
Annually, on the 1st Adar, the month before Passover, proclamation was made throughout Israel by messengers from Jerusalem of the Temple Tax. On the 15th Adar the money-changers opened stalls throughout the country to change the various coins which Jewish residents at home or settlers abroad might bring, into the ancient money of Israel, because only the ancient half-shekel of the Sanctuary would be acceptable to the Temple Treasury. On the 25th Adar business was only transacted within the precincts of Jerusalem and the Temple. After that date those who had refused to pay could be proceeded against at law. The Temple, A Edersheim, page 71
Jesus ‘drove out the money changers’ because:
· the time period for collecting the Temple Tax had ended on 25th Adar, two weeks earlier. They were operating illegally, exactly as Jeremiah describes.
· The Rabbis allowed them to operate in the Temple because of their unnecessary rule that only the ancient half shekel could be accepted for the Temple Tax
· The fact that ‘the money changers’ were also short changing and defrauding, made their presence in the Temple unacceptable to Jesus.
To return to the passage in Mark 11.15-17, by quoting, ‘My House shall be called a House of prayer for all nations’, Jesus is teaching that God’s plan is for everyone to keep His Commandments and come up to the Temple in Jerusalem which will be ‘a House of prayer for all nations’. There is a particularly appropriate prophecy a few verses earlier in Isaiah 56:
Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Isaiah 56.1
His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem yesterday, Nisan 10, was a clear indication that My Salvation is about to come, and My Righteousness to be revealed. In contrast, the rebellious behaviour of the ‘money changers’ had made the Temple ‘a den of thieves.’ The result of this disobedience is prophesied in Jeremiah 7:
My anger will be poured out on this place….and it will burn and not be quenched. Jeremiah 7.20
This prophecy was fulfilled in the time of Jeremiah in 586BCE when Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, destroyed Solomon’s Temple and took the Children of Israel into the Exile in Babylon for 70 years. Jesus quoted the same prophecy to show that it would be fulfilled again 40 years later when the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70CE.
Nisan 11 was the first day of the week; Sunday. Jesus has cleansed the Temple for His own sacrifice. He is now ready as the lamb to be tested to see that He is ‘without blemish’.
When evening had come, He went out of the city. Mark 11.19
He returned to His lodgings at Martha’s house in Bethany.