Holy Monday April 15, 2019

Mark 11:15-19 (NRSV) – Jesus cleanses the temple

15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16 and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 He was teaching and 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.” 18 And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19 And whenevening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.


After Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his first stop in the city is the temple.  He arrives to find things quite out of order – money changers and vendors had taken up residence and were peddling their services and wares in the courtyard.  Obviously, this was quite upsetting to him.  Imagine if you arrived at church one Sunday morning only to find that the IRS had set up a tax collection station in the front yard, the parlor and classrooms were occupied by bankers, and the sanctuary looked like a mall, full of various places to buy a variety of goods.  Not exactly what we would expect to find, nor something that would be desirable for such a location, would it?

        This passage makes us realize that there is a purpose for our places of worship as locations.  The secular world has attempted to change them, to make them just another space in the community that has no real meaning.  Yet, Jesus proclaimed, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (v. 17), and “the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching” (v. 18).  Our ears should perk up when hearing Jesus’ words, just as the crowd’s did.  Jesus’ teaching was about stepping away from the way the world considers our actions, and, instead, getting us back to the basics – recognizing these sacred spaces as places of worship.

        Now, of course, the world may never want this for us, for they have other ideas, other ways in which they see our sacred spaces should be used.  After all, as the priests and scribes, who had succumbed to the Roman rule, heard what Jesus was saying and watched as he drove the bankers and vendors from the temple, “they kept looking for a way to kill him” (v. 18).  So, perhaps, in our reflection of Jesus’ first action upon entering Jerusalem, we should consider – are there spaces in our places of worship (our church, our homes, our community, etc) that are in need of cleansing?  Are there things in our lives that we need Jesus to drive out of these sacred spaces?  Are there are obstacles in the way of using these settings as houses of prayer?

        As we begin Holy Week, and reflect on all that Jesus did for our salvation, let us start by cleansing ourselves (for our hearts are the very sanctuary of God’s abiding love on earth) and start the week afresh in His presence.  Let us start in prayer.


God of strength and mercy, by the suffering and death of your Son, free us from slavery to sin and death and protect us in all our weakness.  Teach us how to not allow our sacred spaces to be overcome by the ways of the world, keeping them as you commanded, as houses of prayer.  We ask this through the one who cleansed the temple of all that gets in our way to meeting this objective, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.