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A Condemned Temple

Read Mark 11:12-19

Jesus’s disciples knew that the religious leaders of Jerusalem didn’t approve of Jesus, and they probably knew that Jesus didn’t think very highly of the religious leaders of Jerusalem very much either. But who could have expected Jesus to march directly into the Temple and begin chasing people, throwing tables and chairs around, and preventing people from carrying things into the inner courts of the Temple? He explains his actions by alluding to Isa. 56:7 and Jer. 7:11, saying, “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 seemed to be profoundly pronouncing judgment on the Temple and the religious leaders. God had designed the Temple to be a place where people of all nations—Jews and Gentiles—could meet with God, but the religious leaders of Jesus’s day—like those of Jeremiah’s day—had transformed the Temple into a hideout for criminals. The religious leaders used the Temple as their “criminal safe house”; thus, the Temple no longer functioned as God had designed it, and Jesus came to announce the condemnation of both the building and the leaders. The building was no longer safe for people to enter to meet with God.

When a city condemns a building, the city officials are pronouncing that the building is not safe for people to use or enter and usually announcing the imminent demolition of the building. Jesus was doing this in the Temple.

Ultimately, the only safe place to meet with God is in Jesus Christ himself. His presence makes the Temple building unnecessary; he fulfills the function of the Temple. We gain access to God and enjoy fellowship with God not by going to a particular building in a particular place; no, we meet with God by trusting Jesus.

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