Jesus Cleanses the Temple
Scripture Reading: Mark 11:15-19
· Why is Jesus angry?
· What does He do?
· What reason does He give?
· How did the crowd react?
· What was the response of the chief priests and scribes?
· How does this event contribute to Jesus’s execution? (Hint: v. 18)
Anytime I hear the phrase “righteous anger,” I think of this scene, although it’s difficult to envision the same Jesus who lovingly welcomed small children turning over tables in anger and frustration. Of course, Jesus’s anger could only be “righteous” in light of His perfection, but it gives us an example of when we, His followers, have license to get angry, and it gives us a clue as to what may happen as a result.
Jesus is angry over the disrespect and denigration of the temple, His house. The treatment of the temple as a place of commerce rather than of worship shows the people’s heart condition and their loss of reverence for the temple’s holiness. Jesus immediately corrected the situation and began to teach, astonishing the people with His knowledge and capturing their attention.
The chief priests and scribes were incensed because this lowly carpenter dared to assert authority in what they considered to be their territory, and they feared losing their control over the people along with their lofty position in society. So, they determined to shut Him up any way they could.
British theologian, JI Packer, wrote, “It is simply that those who know their God are sensitive to situations in which God’s truth and honour are being directly or tacitly jeopardised, and rather than let the matter go by default will force the issue on men’s attention and seek thereby to compel a change of heart about it – even at personal risk.” [Knowing God, pg. 29, 2013 edition, Hodder & Stoughton LTD, London]
In the above quote Packer was commenting on the prophet Daniel’s defiance of King Nebuchadnezzar, but I consider the quote to be just as applicable to Jesus’s actions at the temple in the last week of His earthly life, and really His actions throughout His ministry. Jesus’s purpose was to retune people’s heartstrings to God’s direction in their lives. By running out the merchants and money changers, then immediately sitting down to teach and heal (Mathew 21:12-16) He reminded the people of the temple’s true purpose as a house of prayer and worship to God and to use it for any other purpose was irreverent.
Jesus’s example and Packer’s commentary are both applicable to us today, as well. Our world is full of examples of the denigration of God’s truth, His word, and His house. We, too, should be righteously angry and stand against such things, fully knowing that the world will turn on us, but,“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, ESV)