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The Synoptics on 
the Cleansing of the Temple

Mark 11:
12  The next day, when they had come out from Bethany, he was hungry.
13  Seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came to see if perhaps he might find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
14  Jesus told it, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again!"
and his disciples heard it.

15  They came to Jerusalem, and Jesus entered into the temple,
and began to throw out those who sold and those who bought in the temple,
and overthrew the tables of the money-changers,
and the seats of those who sold the doves.

16  He would not allow anyone to carry a container through the temple.
17  He taught, saying to them, "Isn’t it written,
‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ (Isaiah 56:7)
But you have made it a den of robbers!"  (Jer 7:11)

18  The chief priests and the scribes heard it,
and sought how they might destroy him.
For they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching.


The fig tree represents Israel. In fact it is the symbol of national identity of Israel even today. From a distance the Jews look religious, just as many people even of other religions like Islam look religious. But upon closer inspection they are barren and unfruitful in their knowledge of God. This is not a condemnation of all Jews, for both Jesus and all the first Christians were Jews. But it is a condemnation of unbelieving Jews who are in fact predominant in the Jewish community then and now. See also the parable of the barren fig tree. But this is also applicable to the Christian community. Those who are nominally in Christ but don't bear fruit, they will be cut off and thrown into the fire. (John 15:2,6)

Jesus prophecying of Jerusalem's destruction during his trimphal entry, his cursing of the fig tree, and his cleansing of the temple all communicate his dissatisfaction with the state of the Jews. The temple was to be a house of prayer. There was profit to be made in the temple by the businessmen. Sacrificial animals were bought and sold there at a profit. Furthermore according to the Law of Moses, the Jewish money - shekels had to be used. But many had only Roman money, which they would have to first exchange for shekels. The moneychangers would profit from this exchange. Thus for many the Jewish religion became just a way of making money.

This is a warning also to those in the Christian community who make money from Chistian service. Yes, just as in Judaism, there are those who should legitimately be payed for service, but then then there are many others who extort money for service. Or don't give appropriate service. The apostle Paul avoided all this by simply not requiring payment for his services, and such advice he gives to other Christian ministers.

"I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive."Acts 20:33-35 (Paul to the Ephesian Elders)
One can imagine Jesus' rage at the inappropriate dealings in his house. Imagine someone setting up shop in your own house and doing business stealing from others. Get out of my house! That's the way Jesus saw it. The temple was his house. These people didn't belong in it. Thus it was not inappropriate for him to drive them out. Some, who seem to confuse Jesus with Santa Claus, think that Jesus' reaction was sinful. But it is nothing compared to his burning rage and wrath he will pour out on the earth at his second coming.

But another application of this is judgment within the church.What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." 1Cor 5:12,13 For just as Jesus we also should be unraged at those in the Christian community who practice and condone the living of a lifestyle of sin.

Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known,  and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, "We are safe"-- safe to do all these detestable things? Jer 7:9,10
These are the words prophecied by Jeremiah just before declaring, "Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD." Yet this is also a message to Christians. For there are those in the Christian community who presume their salvation status has no relation to their behavior and so fearlessly continue to live a lifestyle of sin presuming they are eternally secure. But they are on their way to hell.

Who was Jesus' greatest enemies? The religious leaders. Such was true in Judaism and such has often been the case in Christianity. Furthermore it is also often the case for leaders to be overly concerned about what people think of them. This concern stems from political ambitions. And whether it is in secular or church politics, popularity is often the central issue and motivating factor for these people rather than what is true and what is right. The reason why the religious leaders wanted to kill him was not because of his claims about himself, but rather because he humiliated them by telling them the truth and convicting them of sin.

NIV used in comments
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 29,2022