Mark 11: 15-19. And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.
Christians call it Holy Week, but for the Jews in 33 AD it was Passover Week. Jews from all over the empire are flooding into Jerusalem for the celebrations and sacrifices. Hundreds of thousands of lambs will be bought and sold and sacrificed this week. It’s Monday and Jesus has left Bethany and headed back to the Temple.
The Temple. The bridge between God and man. At first it was a tent in the wilderness known as the Tabernacle. Here the priests of Israel would serve God. Sins would be atoned for. God would be worshipped. God and man would meet.
Later, God’s glory left the Tabernacle and filled the newly built Temple of Solomon. For years God and man would meet at this temple. And for years the Israelites would sin against God. Eventually the glory of the Lord left Solomon’s Temple and the Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians. 70 years later the Temple would be rebuilt by Zerubbabel. But God’s glory would not return. Later this temple would also be destroyed by the Romans.
And then came Herod’s Temple. Herod, the “King of the Jews,” was Rome’s puppet, and so they let him rebuild the temple. It was big and it was beautiful. Sacrifices were back. Festivals returned. People flooded in. But God did not return.
Until Holy Monday.
What made Jesus so angry at the Temple? Was it that they were buying and selling? Not completely. Jesus wasn’t mad that they were selling animals for sacrifice. He was mad about WHERE they were selling sacrifices. All the action was taking place in the Court of the Gentiles. The part of the Temple where non-Jews were supposed to be allowed to go to pray to Yahweh. But the Jews were taking this access to God away from the nations by turning it into the market place.
We often call this story “the cleansing of the Temple.” But Jesus isn’t cleansing the Temple, he’s condemning it. He’s saying that this temple never was and never will be the dwelling place of God. And then he claims something even more radical – that he himself is the true temple.
John 2:19. Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
The incarnated Jesus was and is the true dwelling place of God. The meeting place of God and man. Now the Spirit of Christ lives in all who have faith in Christ. Even us Gentiles. Our access to God will never be blocked again. Why? Because of our union with Christ. Like Herod’s Temple we had to be condemned, torn down, and rebuilt into a whole new structure. That is what Christ allowed to happen to him, and it’s what he did to us when he saved us. He crucified us. Raised us. And built us into a glorious church. A new temple of the Holy Spirit. A new dwelling place for God. Sin has been driven out. Prayer has returned. God’s glory has returned. It’s in you. It’s in us. Never to leave again.
Jesus we are your temple. Your Holy Place. Continue to purify us by your grace. Tear down every wall that separates us. Reveal your glory in our purity and unity. Amen.