Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
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.Mark 11:11-15
When Jesus arrived at the Temple on Sunday night, Mark says, he “looked around at everything.”
The flocks to be sacrificed at the Temple – all owned by the high priest and his family. Thousands of pilgrims purchasing sacrificial animals at inflated prices. The many booths assembled in the Court of the Gentiles, known as the “Ananias Bazaar.” The money-changers charging exorbitant fees. The faithful giving offerings that would be funneled into the pockets of the high priest and his family.
For many centuries, the high priests of Israel had been chosen by God through the casting of lots. But by Jesus’ day, the Romans were appointing wealthy Sadducees who would help the Romans keep the Jews in line in exchange for power and profit.
Israel’s religious leaders were nicknamed the ta’anim – figs – because they served the sweetness of the Torah to the people. But as Jesus “looked around at everything,” he saw the figs had become bitter.
Early the next morning – Monday morning – Jesus woke up in Bethany and made his way back to the Temple. Along the way he came to a tree that was a lot like the Temple – all leaves and no figs.
“May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”
Jesus entered the Temple with his students and began teaching them by dismantling Ananias’ Bazaar and quoting the prophets.
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.’”Mark 11
Like other rabbis, Jesus often used remez, which means hint, when instructing his pupils. He quoted only one line of a much larger passage of scripture, expecting his audience to mentally flip back to the entire passage to understand his full meaning. The disciples – and the priests! – instantly recognized the words Jesus was hinting at from Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning the Temple and its priests.
Isaiah scolded the religious leaders of his day for excluding foreigners from worshiping God. This went against God’s promise to bless the nations.
…my house will be calledIsaiah 56:7b,8
a house of prayer for all nations.”
8 The Sovereign Lord declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”
Jesus looked around the Temple and saw the nations excluded. The Court of the Gentiles was crammed with booths and not worshipers. Instead of welcoming foreigners into God’s house, the high priests crowded them out. The religious leaders had failed to make the LORD’s Temple “a house of prayer for all nations.”
Instead, it had become a “den of robbers.” Jesus then hinted at the words of Jeremiah. He had railed against the priests in his day who had become thieves, murderers, and worshipers of other gods. Because they pretended to serve God while only serving themselves, God threatened to destroy the Temple and their livelihoods along with it.
Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord. 12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel.”Jeremiah 7:11,12
Jesus looked around the Temple and saw the self-dealing hypocrisy of the priests. They were no longer leaders of worship but leaches on worshipers. They extorted the LORD’s people while claiming to exalt the LORD’s name. The chief priests had naively thought God wouldn’t notice that his house had become their hideout.
When the chief priests saw what Jesus was doing and heard what he was teaching, they knew he was predicting the destruction of the Temple, an end to their power and profits. They began looking around for a way to kill him (Mark 11:18).
Soon, Jesus would destroy the Temple and the figs along with it.
• Am I a self-less and welcoming priest to those who come to experience the presence of God through me?
LORD, you have left the Temple in Jerusalem to live in us and with us. We have so often kept you to ourselves. You have blessed us to be a blessing to all nations. We have enriched ourselves.
Cleanse us, your people, your Temple, from all hypocrisy and selfish-ambition.
Today, we throw open our hearts and our lives to anyone who wants to experience your Presence. Meet them in us and through us, LORD.