#80: Deep Cleansing the Temple

Mark 11:15–19

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, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 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.’”

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.

When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

It is the Monday of Holy Week. Jesus had entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, come to the Temple for a look around at everything then returned to spend the night at his ‘safe house’ in Bethany.

We call it the cleansing of the temple, you could just as easily call it the scouring of the pot or the hacking back and weeding of the overgrown garden. This is real ‘Game of Thrones’ stuff. You can almost hear the theme tune as he climbs up the entrance steps. This was the Father’s throne, the priests made it theirs and Jesus is now reclaiming it.

The Temple was a massive place, one of the wonders of the ancient world. It dominated the whole city of Jerusalem and was the centre of the Jewish faith. Honest and devout pilgrims came from all over the world to gaze on its awesome presence, to breathe its air and to prayerfully kneel on its stones. Underneath this surface of religious piety, however, there was another Temple reality. At its heart the Temple was about power, domination and money. At the top of the heap, as in all great national and historic institutions, were the rich and powerful, the priests. They ran the whole show, controlled the Sanhedrin or ruling council and played up to the Romans who were happy to keep them in power. At the bottom were the spiritually obedient and generous faithful pilgrims, many of whom were poor and vulnerable. They lived on the edge and came to the centre to be ripped off. Jesus had once said that it was not the outside but the inside that made a thing unclean. Here he is entering and cleansing the very heart of Jerusalem.

I am often confused and left bewildered by all those who claim religion and politics shouldn’t mix. Here we see the two woven together in the righteous and prophetic rebellion of Jesus. Tables are overturned, spivs and scoundrels are driven out and words are spoken.

“This should be a house of prayer,
You have made it a den of thieves.”

The writing is on the wall, the bell has been rung and the first shot fired. Jesus has thrown down the gauntlet, the priests and scribes pick it up and run with it. They are afraid of Jesus and of his spell binding impact on all the people. The great game over the ultimate spiritual throne has begun.

What to do then with this story? Well, I like to think of my everyday life, my thinking mind, my passionate heart as a Temple. As a place where God could live. I want him to be dominant in the Game of Thrones which goes on every day in my life between my own selfish ego and my full of grace heavenly Father. Now is a good time then to think about my own attitudes towards all sorts of things such as money, sex, race, saving the environment and caring for my family and friends.

How clean is my Temple?

Lord Jesus,
May my body be a temple,
My mind a sanctuary,
My heart an altar.
May my temple be your home,
Turn over my tables,
Call me again to prayer,
And make my inner being a sacred place.