Murder, fear and amazement – these are the responses at the end of this sparsely described event. What is going on to provoke such strong reactions?
At first glance this is just a story of Jesus getting all irate like a consumer rights champion chewing out some dodgy street vendors ripping off the public with poor exchange rates or sub-standard goods.
But much much more is going on here. This is an act of divine judgement. The Messiah claims authority over the temple. The money changers were simply exchanging pagan Roman coins for Jewish temple money; the dove sellers were providing a service of birds for sacrifice (as Mary & Joseph had done years before).
Yet Jesus acts as if he owns the place and, quoting Isaiah and Jeremiah pronounces the judgement of God upon the very dwelling place of God, the core of Israel’s self identity, the domain of the chief priests and religious elite.
Who could dare such brazen effrontery? Only the one who embodies God’s judgement on his people. Only one who has authority to cleanse and reconstitute the worship of the people of God in and through him own actions.
Once again, Mark’s account becomes Christological. Who on earth is this man and what is his ultimate agenda? The authorities are right to fear. One greater than the temple is here.
Jesus Clears the Temple Courts
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
15 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, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 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.’”
18 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.