Why did Jesus flip over tables?

“And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple” (Mark 11:15-16).

Why did Jesus drive out those who sold and bought in the temple? Why did He flip over tables? That seems pretty extreme. Why was He so worked up? What was such a big deal? I mean in some ways the moneychangers actually helped people it would seem.

When I was in Germany, for instance, I had to go to the “moneychangers” to get euros. Without the moneychangers, after all, I would have had no schnitzel. Further, pigeons were sold. That is actually pretty convenient. Because who wants to have to haul a pigeon halfway across the known world? Not me. So, what was the deal with Jesus getting upset?

It seems that money was not the only issue. In fact, maybe not the biggest issue. Though, Jesus does mention that the moneychangers were essentially robbers (again, reminds me of the bank in Germany where I got my euros). But I think the bigger issue is what the Temple was intended to be and what it had become. It clearly was never meant to be “a den of robbers” but “a house of prayer.” A house of prayer “for all peoples,” it says.

The moneychangers were in the “Court of the Gentiles,” that’s basically equivalent to where Gentiles (non-Jews/”the nations”) would worship. As you can imagine that would obstruct worship. It would be a hindrance from Gentiles, “the nations,” from worshiping the Lord. This is the converse, as Jesus pointed out, of what Isaiah said: “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is. 56:7).

Jesus brings blessing and salvation to all peoples but at the temple people were hindered from worshiping. That is why Jesus was furious. And rightly so. May we never be worthy of Jesus’ wrath for that same sin. 

May we never prevent or hinder people from coming to the LORD, even if they are convenient or important things that we don’t want to give up. May we work to destroy unnecessary stumbling blocks. And may the church be a house and family that welcomes all people in!

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