House of Prayer

On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

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; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 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.”

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. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city. (Mark 11:12–18)

Jesus quoted from the prophet Isaiah when he said that the temple would be called “a house of prayer for all the nations” (Isaiah 56:7). In context, Isaiah’s prophesy predicted that a time would come when foreigners—gentiles—would bind themselves to God and love his name.

When Jesus cleansed the temple of the money changers and those selling doves, his purpose was not to level an attack on making money. Jesus was not against capitalism. He was not even suggesting that selling things for religious purposes was wrong. Instead, he was attacking people who were taking advantage of the poor and the foreigners who were coming to the Temple for the purpose of worshipping God. He was attacking criminal behavior. The system that the religious establishment had created around the temple was keeping those who wanted to reach God from getting to him. Rather than facilitating worship and prayer, the religious leaders were standing in its way. They were making it harder for people to find the kingdom of God.

God is not about putting up roadblocks to faith. He is about removing all the barriers that stand between him and people. He wants nothing to distract us from worshipping him, talking to him, and spending time with him. Jesus has gotten rid of everything that could keep us away.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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