A redundant Temple

The Old Testament prophets promised good things for God’s Temple.  Whilst Isaiah prophesied destruction, devastation and defilement and Ezekiel and Daniel were set against the backdrop of that desolation already having happened, all the major prophets expressed hope of a coming day when God would bring his people back into the promised land, Jerusalem would be restored, the temple rebuilt and God’s name would be honoured and worshipped there.

Indeed, their expectation was that this new Temple would be so glorious that outcasts and foreigners would be drawn to worship there.  It would be a house of prayer, not just for Israel but for all nations (Isaiah 56:7).

Now, the people were physically in the land, Jerusalem had been re-established as a great city and a magnificent and extended Temple dominated the skyline.  However, the people were not truly free, instead they were under the cosh of Rome.  So, they continued to long for the day when Yahweh, the LORD God would show up and visit his Temple.

Well, if Jesus was the anointed one, the heir of David, the Messiah and if indeed, he was more than a great man but the promised “Immanuel”, God with us, then God in fact was showing up. God had come to his temple. So, what did he find there?

Read Mark 11:15-19

Jesus arrives in the Temple. He will have already seen and observed the scene the night before. Instead of finding a place of prayer, he finds that it is full of the bustle and noise of a market.  There are people changing money because you had to use specific Temple validated currency. There are people selling officially approved blemish free sacrifice animals. All of this no doubt at a hefty premium. Not only that, all of this is happening in the only place that the Gentiles could go to pray within the outer court.

Jesus rebukes them, reminds them of the purpose of the Temple and charges them with the sin of theft. They rob people through extortion of their money, they rob them of access to worship and forgiveness and so too they rob God of the honour he is due.

The chaos will probably have forced the Temple to shut down operations for a period of time at their busiest time.  Jesus is purging the place and judging it. He is declaring that the Temple is no fit for purpose.  He is hitting the reset button.

The point is this. That physical temple building could never be the place where God came to meet with his people. Indeed, if God was present in a person, then a Temple was not needed. Jesus is in effect shutting the place down. Oh, they would reopen again. However, responsibilities had now passed on. It was in Jesus, at the Cross that God and man would be reconciled.  Jesus was the true Temple. When he prophesied that a destroyed temple would be rebuilt in 3 days he was speaking about himself and his own death and resurrection. 

The lessons we are meant to learn from this passage are not to do with what can and cannot be done in a church building on a Sunday (if you have the luxury of a church building). Rather, the point is this.  If Jesus is the one who draws all people to himself, if he is the one that offers peace with God then we must not put any obstacles in the way of people coming to him.

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