I have been, rather unusually but firmly, gripped by Jesus’ reaction to the condition of the temple in Jerusalem he’d been confronted with in Mark 11:15 – 19.
Here is Mark’s account…
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. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 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.”
A lot was happening in the house of God at the time Jesus visited. The temple was a hub of activities. There was no lack of activity. The place was buzzing with activity – only the wrong type of activity. A lot was going on yet the one thing that should have been going on seemed to be absent, missing in action. It was nowhere in sight. Everything else was there but the one thing that ought to have been bang in the middle of everything was conspicously absent. There was no lack of activity but a gaping lack of the principal activity of God’s House church – connecting with God.
All these activities in the temple were under the guise of being worship-related and yet they not only missed the point but led to distraction from it. The so-called worship-related activities overshadowed and supplanted the one activity that really mattered – prayer. Prayer was nowhere in sight, nowhere to be found. It was absent.
Such was the depth of deception and extent of departure from the designated purpose for God’s house that Jesus could no not hold back. He took drastic action. The high pitched sound of a whip in full action, the noise of the money changers’ coins falling onto the stone floor and the shrieks of terrified birds must have shattered the still and quiet of the temple that fateful afternoon in Jerusalem.
Jesus was not afraid or reluctant to disturb the peace and upset the status quo when it came to the house of God and it’s God-designated purpose. He did not hold back from expressing His anger and displeasure but employed force to expel these unwanted, unwarranted, uninvited, misplaced traders and their goods from the temple. Make no mistake – this was a very public, high-profile and forced intervention The Lord conducted. Nowhere else do we find the Lord taking matters into his own hands and putting things right like He did in this situation.
Such drastic action was very unusual for the Him but nonetheless called for and essential given the circumstances. The nature of Christ’s response might have to do with a couple of things:
- The seriousness of the issue at hand – the temple’s entire purpose so openly and blatantly supplanted by something totally opposed and contrary to purpose. And,
- The nature of opposition faced in this instance – robbers who posed as legitimate traders and therefore may not have responded to any other means but forced eviction.
The Lord did not seem to have any time or patience for these traders who were bent on pocketing profits only from innocent worshipers and nothing else. These people had quite literally hijacked the temple and repurposed it for their own ends. They had no justification or grounds to be in a place that was designated by its designer and architect for the purpose of prayer. This was a place for all men to meet with their Creator. Only immediate and drastic action could return it – albeit temporarily – to its original purpose while getting the point across very powerfully. The Lord instinctively responded to the state of His Father’s house which had fallen into the hands of “robbers” masquerading as traders and in the process made an unmistakeable public statement with regards to the purpose of the temple.
Jesus quoted from Isaiah 56:7 as he drove out traders in the temple reminding the people of a very precious truth about the house of God. Here’s what He said in Mark 11:17… 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.”
Jesus was here reminding His fellow countrymen that God’s house has been designated by God as “a house of prayer for all peoples”. God had designated His house to be the place of connection with Him for all. According to the Lord Jesus, the principal activity of the house of God is prayer. God’s house, according to its designer and architect, was to be a house of prayer for all nations. This was to be its principal activity. If there were any other activities in God’s house, they were to be secondary to this and certainly not replace it. Jesus identified the principal activity of the temple as prayer.
Prayer is what the church is primarily called to do and be a hub for.
Prayer is the business of the church.
It is the church’s lifeline.
Would we lend some weight to that truth with our actions? Would you vote with your feet?
Any other activity that supplants prayer not only misses the target but, like in Jesus’ times, it violates God’s intended purpose for His house.
Church is here to facilitate connection between God and people. Full stop. If God’s church today is not a hub of prayer but a hub of other activities, should we even be here?
If so, what for? What purpose are we serving?
It was designed for this purpose – to be a house of prayer.
If as church we are not devoted to prayer in the church, what then are we devoted to?