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.
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Mark 11:15-19; 27-33
I learned recently at church a little more about why Jesus needed to cleanse the temple. It’s important to understand that there was nothing inherently wrong with selling doves in the temple. Originally it was a valuable service to those who had no way of keeping animals for sacrifice themselves. The money changers also served a valuable purpose once, because people traveled a long way to visit the temple and had the wrong currencies. But Jesus says that now these people had made the temple a den of robbers. Over time they had become corrupt and were over-charging and taking advantage of the people. They turned the most Holy place into a place of greed and profit-margins.
Worse, the Chief Priests had become a part of this corruption and supported it to the point of wanting to kill Jesus. The Priests were corrupt to the point of dishonesty and fear. They didn’t believe John the Baptist was sent by God, but they were afraid to say so because they didn’t want the crowd to hear them. They didn’t want to loose their power.
Both sorts of corruption are all too common in the modern church. Pastors and churchgoers alike are afraid to speak their minds about certain topics, because acceptance and popularity are more important than convictions and God’s word. In the Methodist church, many Pastors never teach on hard subjects like sin or Hell for fear of scaring people away. And financial corruption is everywhere, from poor business practices, people stealing from the church, to poor spending priorities. We have to constantly be on the lookout, because it is too easy for the church to turn into a modern-day temple.