‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations…’ (Mark 11:17)
Bible Reflection: Read Mark 11:12-19
It’s not difficult to imagine the commotion that Jesus must have caused in this ‘act of cleansing’. The Temple courtyard would have been packed with pilgrims, buying their sacrificial animals or exchanging their coins to pay the Temple tax, something that actually needed to take place before a sacrifice could be offered. So no doubt there would have been great anger expressed, not only by those whom Jesus drove from the Temple, but also by the Temple authorities, who would ‘lose out’, not just on legitimate revenue, but also on some ill-gotten revenue because of Jesus actions. But what’s really going on here?
All through His Ministry, indeed all through His life, Jesus refused to pander to the whims and wishes of those around Him. He refused to live within the expected norms and standards of that time. He had been sent to fulfil His mission. To proclaim the Gospel message far and wide, to offer redemption and salvation to all, and to reconcile all of us to God, and nothing or no-one was going to stop Him from doing just that. Which is perhaps why we shouldn’t be all that surprised at His actions in the Temple that day.
The Passover was the greatest of all the Jewish feasts and Jews from all over the ancient world would do their utmost to come to Jerusalem for this special festival. And many may have gone to the Temple in the hope that they might just find the Living God that they had heard so much about. However, the Temple was divided into courtyards. There were areas where only the Priests could enter, areas where Jewish males could go, areas where females could go and finally, areas where Gentiles could go. But irrespective of which area you went to it should have been a house of prayer, a sanctuary for anyone seeking peace and tranquillity, sanctuary for anyone seeking the presence of God in their lives. But what did the Gentiles find – a disputing and bargaining mob, haggling and dealing over money and livestock.
The Temple was a House of God, a place where all pilgrims and worshippers could come and find peace and solitude with their Lord – or it should have been. However, with all the cheating and thieving that was going on here that wouldn’t have been possible. In this courtyard, there would have been no way that anyone would be able to find a quiet space for reflective devotion or prayer and that’s why Jesus was so angry. The cheating and thieving by the money-changers and dealers was bad enough, however, of more importance to Jesus was this. By their actions those in the courtyard were preventing others from being able to come to be with God – that was the real reason for Jesus’ anger here.
There is much we can take from this passage, however, perhaps one lesson stands out. As Disciples of Jesus here and now we are called to bring others to God through our Lord – to proclaim His message and demonstrate His love in all we are and do. So there should be nothing in our behaviour – in our words and/or actions that might hinder that. Yet the fact remains that there are none of us perfect and we will make mistakes. That is why we too need to come to the Lord in prayerful devotion and spend time with Him each day, asking for His strength and guidance, asking Him to lead us in the way He would have us go as we walk with Him through this Holy Week. Only then will we be able to offer our whole lives as a witness to our Lord, that through this witness others too may come to know Him for themselves.
Loving Jesus, we want to be true to our own convictions and to stand up for what is right, at all times seeking to proclaim the Gospel message in our words and actions. But often when the pressure is on we buckle under the weight of it. So grant us wisdom we pray and give us the courage we need to hold fast and uphold your name in all we do, living out our faith as best we can, that through our witness others may come to know You too. And all of this we would ask in Jesus name…Amen