I’m not sure why everyone was so surprised that Jesus walked into the Temple and set things straight. The prophet Malachi told them this would happen:
Malachi 3:1-3 (NLT) “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 “But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears? For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. 3 He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.
Like we’ve seen before, no matter how many prophecies Jesus fulfilled, it didn’t stop the Pharisees (Levites) from plotting to kill Jesus.
Mark 11:18 (NLT) 18 When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him.
But this still doesn’t answer the question why Jesus was so upset. Until further study, one of the things I never realized was the actual location Jesus cleared out.
Court of the Gentiles
Located in the outer court of the Temple was the location called the Court of the Gentiles. This is the furthest point that a Gentile could go in the Temple. In fact, there were signs in both Hebrew and Greek warning that Gentiles would be executed if caught past that point.
Here’s the other thing about the Court of the Gentiles. It was the only place where Gentiles could observe the Jewish worship of God. If you attend a church, picture a room off the sanctuary where non-believers could gather and watch to see what was going on during the service. So basically the Jewish religious leaders took up the one location where Gentiles could see their interaction with God.
It’s important to note what Jesus says while he’s “cleaning the Temple.” We hear people say that Jesus declared, (v. 17) “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” Now, this is true, but we tend to leave off one of the most important part of his statement. His full statement is, (v. 17) “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.“
This declaration by Jesus would not have set well with the Pharisees. In their mind there, and the mind of others as well, Jews were the only ones who could truly worship God. In fact, it made the Pharisees irate when they heard that Jesus was extending grace to both Jews AND Gentiles.
What Do We Learn?
I can’t tell you what to learn from this story, that’s the role of the Holy Spirit. However, I can tell you what I learned. I learned that still today as a church we struggle with making it harder for people to follow Jesus in the church. Yes, there was major corruption with the money changers and sellers of doves, oil, wine…etc, but at the root level, they ended up cluttering up the only area were Gentiles could experience worship of God.
The question to consider today is this: How have we cluttered up or made it more difficult for people to experience worship today in our churches?