“Then He taught, saying to them, ‘Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ “ – Mark 11:17
It was the next day, after Jesus’ Triumphal Entry. And the scene Jesus returns to is in the Temple, specifically in the Court of the Gentiles.
This court formed the outer enclosure of the Sanctuary. Jewish tradition indicates it was a 750 foot square court. It was open to Jews and Gentiles. However, this is the closest that any Gentile could get to the Sanctuary. If they proceeded any further the penalty was death. In-order for Gentiles to remain in this area, they had to observe the prescribed rules and reverence.
On this day, there were thousands of people in Jerusalem for Passover. Undoubtedly, the Court of the Gentiles was filled with travelers. Jesus had been here once before overturning the tables of the money changers (John 2:13-22). Even though it was cleansed before, it did not take long for them to return to their ways. Foreign Jews would travel to the temple with their sacrifices. They would present them to the priest. When the priest would find a blemish, they were told they had to purchase an unblemished sacrifice from the merchants. It was a monopoly and the leaders were making a profit from it. It was easy for them to rationalize their business because they looked at it as a service. Also, a dove is mentioned here, which is an offering of the poor. They were even ripping off the poor.
The Court of the Gentiles was supposed to be a place where the Jews could share God with the Gentiles. They should have been busy doing missionary work but they were more concerned about making money in the Temple. What about our “House of Worship” today? What do outsiders think of when they see our church buildings? Are they truly houses of prayer? If Jesus were to come walking into our church, what would He find? What changes would He make? Today, may we examine our hearts and come back to the “Heart of Worship”.