Once again, the pastor had a disagreement with the recording system, so here is the message reduced to writing:
The Temple Was Doomed; Mark 11:15-19;
PP: Matt. 21:12 ff, Luke 19:45 ff
To get a grasp on the entire situation, we must first have a brief history of the Temple in our minds. Original worship point for the nation of Israel had been the Tabernacle, in which they had worshipped during their years of wandering in the desert. In the years of the Kingdoms, David sought to build a permanent dwelling for his God; but God turned him down as he was a man of bloodshed. However, God allowed Solomon to build it and it was completed 957 BC. We can read all of that in 1 Kings 5-9.
This temple was destroyed when the Southern Kingdom was taken captive 586 BC; rebuilt under Zerubbabel (begun in 538 BC); dedicated under Ezra (Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai) and expanded by Herod the Great in 20 BC. Incidentally, Herod was not called the Great because he was a wonderful guy; but because he was an engineer, a builder. It was this temple in which the events of this pericope played out as this was the temple at the time of Christ. It was no longer a simple building; but enclosed by a courtyard, occupied a major portion of the city. Some years of the time of Christ, it would be destroyed by Roman Army (70 AD)—thus the message title, sort of a play on the title of an Indiana Jones movie.
Money changers and animals sold for sacrifice needed to be available in the area; BUT the religious hierarchy had made it into a profitable business within the temple confines. Particularly in this time when the city was swollen with those seeking to keep the Passover in Jerusalem, it would have been a packed city and a packed temple.
As a side-note, this was apparently the 2nd time Jesus cleared the temple. The first event is recorded for us in John 2:13 ff; it is in a different time frame and context, a different trip to Jerusalem not recorded by Mark.
We will examine three issues concerning the text
It Was a Popular Place
It was popular, and rightly so, for those faithful who came to fulfill the provisions of the Jewish Law regarding sacrifices; to worship and keep the Passover in Jerusalem. Yet today, traditional Jews who keep the Seder meal for Passover end it with “Next year in Jerusalem.” Some of the faithful were doing this out of true worship, a true desire to properly worship their God. Others were doing it out of routine; the repetition of the dead tradition of their elders. This wasn’t true worship as there was no true relationship with God, merely a misguided sense of obligation.
It was also a popular shortcut for people, including merchants, entering the city—a major distraction to any true worshipers. The position of the temple and its imposing sized made cutting through it a common event. At this point in time it had become a popular hub of commercial activity, called Annas’ Bazaar—so named for the true High Priest at the time. Though Caiphas had been installed by Herod as the High Priest, Annas was actually the man holding the position in the eyes of the Jews and the situation had evolved under his authority. It had become a major market place with something a street fair or carnival-like atmosphere. Though some of the services were necessary to have in the area (e.g. money changers were needed to convert the foreign currencies for those travelling in from distant lands and animals for sacrifice—pure animals—not those damaged after a long journey, were needed for sacrifice) the services and sales were necessary to have within the confines of the temple. By allowing the activities that Jesus found so objectionable, the priests had developed a monopoly on the needs of the pilgrims; and of course within this was a profit to be made for the priests.
There Was a Polluted Priesthood
Much is said about this topic in Mal. 2 & 3; it is sufficient to say that the priests should have had been warned had they only read their history and prophets. Mal. 2:2 ff: speaks sharply toward the events that were occurring then: I will send the curse upon you and curse your blessings…rebuke your offspring. They should also have seen Christ coming in the remarks about Levi: My covenant was one of life and peace…He stood in awe of my name…true instruction was in His lips…He walked with me in peace and uprightness…But you have turned aside from the way…; but now the priests were not worried about ministering to the needs of the people; they were merely going through the motions. They were getting fat off the income of the sales of animals. They were crooks! Jesus called them a den of robbers. Though some translations use the world thieves, the word is not strong enough. Robbery implies a level of force or coercion and would, in that day, evoke the image of the robbing bands hiding out in the mountains and along roadways, who would lie in wait for the unsuspecting who had to pass by. That’s what was happening here—a captive market; and the people willingly complied, blindly following the tradition and their corrupted leaders.
The priests were following the tradition of the elders—going through the motions of sacrifices and ceremonies. If/when they followed the law it was rote; not relational. There was (for the most part) no transforming power in what they did. They were phonies, having totally lost their sense of mission and ministry.
Of course, within the number of priests would be a few who still were true to their calling; but it was this vast corrupt system that Jesus addressed here.
Jesus Did Some Potent Preaching
There is a difference between preaching and teaching in that within preaching there is a motivational component. In this event, we see Jesus using some real motivational techniques: tipping over tables, tossing people out of the temple—that’s pretty motivational! Tipping over tables would certainly get my attention.
This motivated teaching brought fear among the priests and scribes. Fear in the Greek is φοβέω, from which we get our word phobia. If we read verses 27-33 we see that the entire ruling culture, the chief priests, scribes and elders all were in fear of Jesus. They were so unsure of their own shaky authority—the tradition of the elders not from the true Word of God—that they could not give Jesus an answer. Since they were unable to answer, Jesus further compounded their confusion by not answering them. They had the full text of the law and the prophets at their disposal—and yet were confused. They were without excuse in their ignorance.
We also see that there was astonishment—in the general population. The Greek here is ἐκπλήσσω, (ekplesso) and is unique in that with the New Testament is always used in the passive voice. It is the work of a force not their own and rightfully so—it was God working on them to astonish them. They were unused to hearing the Word of the Almighty God; when seeing the authority of God, displayed by the Son of God it got their attention, unlike what they were accustomed to hearing.
Finally, we see that God’s house was to be a house of prayer for all people; Is. 56:7; but by the actions of the Jewish leadership it had become anything but that. That would not change in or after the life of our Lord, and the temple was truly doomed.
Is church a popular place? I certainly hope so, but why should it be popular? Is it because we meet all of our friends? Have a snack? Be served? All those things may be true; but hopefully it’s the place to get spiritual nutrition; to worship the one true God. If it’s just a meeting place, there are plenty of others. Most of us recall the sitcom of the 70s, Cheers. Folks came together every week, shared their problems and left only to came back with another load of problems the next week. They left as the same people as had come in. If we leave the church unchanged, we’ve become nothing more than Cheers without the beers.
Is the church a house of prayer—real prayer? At First Baptist, we have a group of 10-14 people, once a week for about 30-40 minutes of corporate prayer—it can be pretty intense prayer some times. That isn’t really enough; but it’s a start.
Are you being influenced by polluted preaching? It’s not coming from this pulpit—and may that never happen; BUT, there’s a lot of trash out there; the culture preaches to us. We let it into our minds in many ways; not just preachers. TV, magazines, newspapers, internet, political speeches, social media…all these things speak into our lives, preaching to us, motivation us to change our behavior. On top of that we may on occasion listen to and/or read some pretty bad preaching. We may sometimes even be guilty of passing on some pretty bad preaching. If you don’t believe it, go back and check your own social media posts.
Are you allowing the power—potency—of God’s Word to change you? Or just going through the motions? Is the Word of God actually working in your life? Are you ever astonished at/by the Word? Are you having WOW that sense of awe at how it speaks into your life? Are the tables getting flipped over, the distractions being driven out…kept out?
Challenge for the Week
Make church a priority. Come to worship—assign value to God. Learn all you can, every chance you get. Depart to serve; the mission field begins at the door. Leave the church as a changed person.
Turn on all your filters; discern the good, the bad…the ugly; take in only the truth. Particularly pay attention to the preachers you hear and read. What are they saying? What’s the real message?
Turn the tables on things like complacency, procrastination…laziness
Don’t live in fear of Jesus’ teaching; but in awe, in amazement of who He is and what He has done for you
Look to be amazed at the power of the Word—read it expectantly and wait anxiously for those WOW statements to hit you.
Two verses complete the lesson for the day:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12 ESV) and Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Ps 119:105 ESV).
Let that living Word penetrate you, first to convict you of sin and bring you to a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Then, let it light your path and guide you in living your life for Him.