I imagine that Jesus' friends were a bit embarrassed, if not positively cringing as their teacher stormed into the temple, the most holy building in the country and trashed the traders' stalls, threw chairs across the floor and wiped away whole tables full of neatly stacked coins.
"Um, steady on Jesus, no need to overreact..." they may have been thinking to themselves. It's the kind of behaviour you'd expect from a rampaging rock star or a riotous mob, but not from the man who's shown himself to be God's humble, saving king.
And yet, as we saw in Mark 11 in RML last night, that's exactly the action that Jesus took. Far from being apologetic Jesus went further, showing that he would go the whole way and destroy the temple just like he destroyed a fruitless fig tree with a word.
How can Jesus justify such condemnation of the house of God? Isn't he supposed to be on God's side? He gives a simple contrast to explain his actions. His anger was not at God or even at what the temple represented but at the people in it and how they were using it. He came to what was meant to be a "House of prayer for all the nations", but found instead a "Den of robbers".
The temple which was meant to be the meeting place of man and God, a glorious place of worship and praise to God where forgiveness could be found, had been turned into a fortress for self-serving God-haters. Just like the fig tree, it was fruitless - failing to produce the kind of genuine relationship with God that he loves.
Having come to wipe out this empty religion, Jesus pointed to a better, more effective means of relationship with God - through faith in God.
- How can we meet with and speak to a holy God in heaven? No rituals, no special buildings, simply by faith in God.
- How can we have our sins forgiven? No repeated ceremonies, or slaughter of goats, but simply by asking God and adopting the same attitude of forgiveness towards those who've sinned against us.
Thank you Jesus for trashing the temple!