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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on September 25, 2016 under 2016 |

Message preached Sunday, September 25, 2016 from Mark 11:15-19

Theme: Our Lord’s work of true spiritual cleansing begins with the household of God.

We come in our study of the Gospel of Mark to a remarkable story. The event it describes must have been a stunning one to those who first witnessed it. It was the event of our Lord’s cleansing of the temple prior to Passover—just a few days before He died on the cross as the true Passover Lamb.

Did you know that one of the things that makes this particular event remarkable is that it wasn’t the only time it happened? In fact, it stands out in that it occurred, not just at the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry, but also at its very beginning. The Gospel of John tells us, in John 2:13-17, of what happened not long after our Lord was first introduced to the world by John the Baptist:

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up” (John 2:13-17).

His disciples never forgot that event early in His earthly ministry. And now, in this morning’s passage, we find it happening again at the end of that ministry. It’s an event that sits like ‘bookends’ at the beginning and the end of His time of walking upon this earth.

And I believe this means that it’s a very important story indeed—and that we should pay special attention to it.

* * * * * * * * * *

The story of this second ‘cleansing’ of the temple is found in Mark 11. And let’s begin by carefully considering the context of it.

It was our Lord’s final week before going to the cross. On Sunday of that week, He had ridden into the city of Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt—in what we traditionally call His ‘Triumphant Entry’—to present Himself to His people as the promised King of the Jews.

Everyone had great Messianic expectations of that day. The cheering crowds—and, to some degree, even the disciples themselves—expected that King Jesus might, right then, begin His reign upon earth. They expected that He might march into the city, conquer the Roman occupiers of the city, and reestablish the glory days of His royal ancestor King David in Jerusalem. But instead, we’re told in Mark 11:11;

And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve (Mark 11:11).

From a strictly human standpoint, it would have seemed rather anticlimactic. He simply looked around at what He saw in the temple—perhaps spending the day doing so; and then, at day’s end, went back in the direction from which He had come and returned to the place from which He had begun His day’s journey.

But consider what it was that He would have so carefully observed. He would have seen a return of the very things that He had cast out of the temple three years before. Historians tell us that the place where our Lord would have seen these things was in that part of the temple that was called “the court of the Gentiles”. It would have been in that portion of the temple in which Gentiles were permitted to come; and beyond which they were not permitted to pass. It would have been in that part of the temple that the people of the world were to be welcomed to visit, and worship, and learn about the God of Israel. And yet, it was being desecrated—again!

A few years prior, the high priest—a man named Annas—allowed booths to be set up in order to sell ‘temple approved’ animals for sacrifice. Pilgrims would have come from all parts of the world in order to make an offering to the God of Israel; and many of them would have tried to bring their own animals as an offering for sacrifice. But after traveling all that distance, they might find that the temple priests would reject their animals as unacceptable for an offering. And so, booths were set up in the court of the Gentiles in which pilgrims could buy these ‘pre-approved’, ‘pre-certified’ animals for sacrifice—at a somewhat inflated price.

Also, because these pilgrims would have traveled from such pagan lands as Egypt or Greece or Rome, they might have brought coins from their own homeland to use for these purchases—coins, however, that were inappropriate for use in the temple. The coins would have featured the kinds of images of the emperor that suggested emperor worship; or they might have contained portrayals of false gods. And so, tables were set up by ‘money-changers’ who would allow the pilgrims to exchange their pagan money for acceptable temple money—again, at a profitable rate of exchange.

In addition, there would have been merchandise sold within the temple; with a lot of buyers and sellers wheeling and dealing and bickering and bargaining. What’s more—since there was a lot of marketing going on in the temple already—some merchants found that when they needed to transport goods from one part of the city to another, it was easy to take a short-cut through the temple area. And so, there was much noise, and animal smells, and hand-carts, and wagons, and loading baskets, and money changing hands, and arguments over the prices of goods—a very disrespectful, very ‘of-this-world’ sort of commotion—all going on in the sacred temple of God; and at the very place where the God-fearing, God-seeking people of this world were supposed to come and hear about the God of Israel and worship Him.

The Lord Jesus came into the temple on Sunday, looked carefully upon all of these things—all this defilement of His Father’s house—and went quietly back to the little near-by village of Bethany at the end of the day. And you can be very sure that He thought carefully that night about what He had seen, and prayed very much about it all to His Father. And then, the next day—on Monday—we’re told in Mark 11:15-19 of a very startling thing that happened. Jesus and His disciples traveled from Bethany and over the Mount of Olives once again:

So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 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.’” And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching. When evening had come, He went out of the city (vv. 15-19).

* * * * * * * * * *

Now, dear brothers and sisters; I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this is a story that primarily concerns our Lord’s response to Jerusalem, and to the temple, and to the worship He had a right to expect from His own Jewish people. In fact, did you know that when our Lord did this, He was fulfilling one of the last prophecies about Himself that was found in the Old Testament? Almost six centuries before our Lord performed this act, the prophet Malachi wrote—in Malachi 3:1-3;

Behold, I send My messenger,

And he will prepare the way before Me.”

That God-sent ‘messenger’, by the way, is a reference to the ministry of John the Baptist.

And the Lord, whom you seek,

Will suddenly come to His temple,

Even the Messenger of the covenant,

In whom you delight.

Behold, He is coming,”

Says the Lord of hosts.

But who can endure the day of His coming?

And who can stand when He appears?

For He is like a refiner’s fire

And like launderers’ soap.

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;

He will purify the sons of Levi,

And purge them as gold and silver,

That they may offer to the Lord

An offering in righteousness (Malachi 3:1-3).

Our Lord was exercising His prophetic and priestly right and duty, as the Son of His heavenly Father, to purify His Father’s house, and to purify His priests for an acceptable ministry. It was a remarkable and symbolic act that highlighted the purity of His offering of Himself as the Passover Lamb that takes a way the sins of the world. It was an act of cleansing that, I believe, was only just brought to the beginning stages at that point; but that is not yet completed with respect to the people of Israel. It was an act of cleansing that will be brought to full completion on the day of His glorious return.

But I wonder if you will also agree with me that this story has very important spiritual implications for you and me today. Presently, there is no ‘temple’ in Jerusalem. That temple of old was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman general Titus; and it has not been rebuilt in the past two-thousand years. And after Jesus died for our sins, and rose from the dead and ascended again to the Father, He sent His Holy Spirit to indwell all those who place their faith in Him. His Church of believers is now being built up on earth as His temple; and we—as individual believers—are the holy dwelling place of God.

Do you suppose that the Lord is ever frustrated over what He finds in us—His temple—today? Do you suppose it grieves Him when He looks at the lives of those who are His followers and finds so much of the things of this world in them? If the Lord were allowed the opportunity to come into our church—or into any of His churches today—and do whatever He wished to with it and in it, do you suppose there’s much of the defiling things of this world He’d immediately throw out? Let’s get even more personal about it. If we were to give Him full, 100% access to the totality of our own personal hearts and lives, do you suppose He’d say, “Finally, My beloved–!”; and then waste no time making a thorough cleaning of that which is in our hearts and in our homes?

I’m sure of it; aren’t you? And I believe that’s the lesson that the Holy Spirit would have us take from this morning’s passage. Certainly, it speaks of our Lord’s care for His Father’s temple in the times when He walked on this earth. But more; I believe it teaches us of His care for our own spiritual condition right now! I believe it teaches us that our Lord’s work of true spiritual cleansing begins with the household of God—with His own church, and in the hearts of we who are His own professing followers.

And tell me—if we were to allow Him to do this work fully in us to the degree He wishes, don’t you think it would look a lot like ‘revival’?

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; let’s examine this passage a bit more closely, and consider some of the lessons we can learn from the Lord Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. First, look with me at verse 15; and consider …


Look at verse 15. We’re told, “So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple …” That may seem like a merely incidental part of the story; but I think it is symbolic of an important spiritual reality. Jesus has absolute right and authority over that which belongs to His Father.

In our story, Jesus exercised that right in two ways. First, He exercised by coming in. He didn’t go into the place where the priests served; because that was only for the tribe of Levi. But as the Son of His Father, and as One who claimed to be greater than the temple, He certainly could have. He was completely free—if I may put it this way—to walk in and around any part of His Father’s house as if He own the place; because, in fact, He did! The day before, He walked in and looked everything over—as if He was doing an inspection of that which was His own.

And then, secondly, He also exercised His right over His Father’s house by doing whatever He willed to do in order to purify it. The high priest Annas had allowed all of these animal booths and money-changing tables and merchandise to be in the temple court; and then Jesus came in, overturned the priest’s decision, and said a loud and clear ‘NO’ to it all.

And may I suggest, dear brothers and sisters, that the Lord Jesus has the same right with you and me; and also with His church? We are not our own; but we have been bought with a price. The church—whether in the sense of the church world-wide, or in the sense of this little building and its people—is completely His. He has all the rights to it. He has the right to come in at any time; and it is never an intrusion when He does so. He has the say of what comes in, and what comes out, and of what goes on.

The question is: Do we respect that right and willingly submit to it? I love what it tells us about the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:20—that He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock …” That’s to a church! That’s a word to believers! Let’s be sure that we always—and immediately—let Him in to that which is His! If He wants to come into your or my life and change things, let Him! If He wants to transform this church, let’s welcome Him!

So; He came into the temple of His Father. And after having reflected on all that He saw the day before in His Father’s house, we next see …


In verses 15-16, Mark tells us that He “began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple.” Do you suppose that it made a scene? Do you suppose that some of the merchants and money-changers and dove sellers were surprised and angry at Him? Do you suppose that several of them would have stood up as their table was falling over and all their money spilling to the ground, and said, “Hey! What are you doing!” You can be sure of it! But those things weren’t supposed to be there in the first place—and I am imagining many of those who bought and sold these things knew it.

And think about it: None of those things were necessarily wrong in and of themselves. There was no inherent wrong in buying and selling things and making a profit. There was no inherent wrong in selling doves or animals. There was no inherent wrong in exchanging money. There was no inherent wrong in transporting goods. What was wrong in it all could be summed up in three violations: (1) where it was being done—that is, in the temple of God that was set apart as holy and for sacred purposes; (2) how it was being done—that is, in a dishonest manner that used the sacred things of God in order to make a worldly profit on the pretense of religious devotion; and (3) what it was resulting in—that is, in the destruction of the witness of God to the Gentile people who were seeking Him.

And again, doesn’t this speak to you and me?—and to God’s call of us to be a people separated unto Him? Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers—people who were often allowing themselves to become contaminated by the things of this world—and appealed to them and said;

For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

I will dwell in them

And walk among them.

I will be their God,

And they shall be My people.”


Come out from among them

And be separate, says the Lord.

Do not touch what is unclean,

And I will receive you.”

I will be a Father to you,

And you shall be My sons and daughters,

Says the Lord Almighty.”

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1).

I believe we should become very motivated in doing this, as Jesus ‘temple on earth’, when we next read what Mark tells us about …


As Jesus cast all of these defiling aspects of the world out of His Father’s house, He taught those who were affected by it. He told them,“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” (v. 17a). And in saying this, He was quoting from Isaiah 56:6-7. I hope you don’t mind if I read it to you; because it’s truly wonderful. God, speaking through the prophet, said;

Also the sons of the foreigner

Who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him,

And to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—

Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,

And holds fast My covenant—

Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,

And make them joyful in My house of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

Will be accepted on My altar;

For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:6-7).

That was God’s intention with His house. It’s an intention that He will bring to full completion in the reign of His Son on earth. But what the people in the temple of old were doing—setting up all this marketing and buying and selling in the court of the Gentiles—was destroying the temple’s usefulness as a place of welcome to the Gentiles. Jesus told them, “But you have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (v. 17b). I believe that the fact that He had cleaned out the temple three years earlier, and that everything had been moved back after He had left and was all back in place again by the time He had returned, shows that those who did so truly were ‘thieves’. And in calling them this, He is also quoting from the Old Testament—from Jeremiah 7:8-11. Again, please let me read it to you. God, speaking through His prophet, says;

Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord (Jeremiah 7:8-11).

I believe that our Lord was not only outraged at that which defiled His Father’s house because—of course—it dishonored His Father; but I believe He was also outraged because it harmed the witness that His Father was seeking to bring to the Gentile world of His love and mercy. Gentile people would come from all parts of the world seeking Him—and particularly on the Passover Feast; but when they arrived at His holy temple, what did they find? They found the sights and sounds and smells and commotion and buying and selling and cheating and theft that they saw in the world. It was no different. What, then, would have attracted them to the God of Israel?

And I believe it’s the same with you and me. We are the temple of God on earth—His holy dwelling place. We are to be “salt” to this world—a preservative agent; and “light”—pointing the way out of the darkness. But if the people of this world come to us and find us no different from what they find elsewhere in this world—if they come to us and find just more ‘worldliness’—what would attract them to our Savior.

We belong to Jesus; and we are set apart by Him as holy unto our Father; and we are to be His lamps and lights to this world. That’s why Jesus is so intent on casting out of us what does not belong in us.

And when He does so—when He sets Himself to clean His temple—it evokes opposition. Note as we read on …


You would think that, if the chief priests and scribes had been thinking rightly, they would have rejoiced over the fact that He was fulfilling the promises of the Old Testament scriptures; and was faithfully coming to refine and purify His house and His holy priesthood. But no. Mark tells us, “And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching” (v. 18). The common people saw what He was doing; and they were rejoicing in it. And they knew of His miracles and heard His words; and they were rejoicing in Him! And so—at least right then, anyway—the leaders could do nothing to destroy Him. (But they wanted to. And in a few days, they would be able to.)

By the way; when the Lord Jesus is allowed to come in to your life and clean out whatever of this world there is in you that needs to go—or when He is allowed to do so in a church—you can expect opposition. There will always be people in this world whose business or whose pleasures or plans or ways of life are frustrated by the cleansing of God’s people.

Nevertheless, Jesus succeeded in doing what He wished. I find this in the last verse; were we see …


Mark tells us simply, “When evening had come, He went out of the city” (v. 19). In other words, Jesus didn’t simply turn a few tables over—just to make a point. He actually stayed the whole day long and drove all these things out of His Father’s house; remaining until day was done to make sure they didn’t come back in. He did a thorough job.

If we allow Him to do this in us, that’s what we should expect too. He isn’t interested in simply spraying a little Lysol Disinfectant on that which is His. He keeps at the purifying process until we are thoroughly cleaned of that which defiles us in His sight. It is His set intention to present us to Himself—as His Bride—“a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

* * * * * * * * * *

Now note, dear brothers and sisters, that Jesus didn’t go out into the heathen world and clean up those who didn’t know Him. He didn’t purify that which was not His. Instead, as the apostle Peter puts it—in a somewhat different context, but entirely applicable: “the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).

In full confidence in His love, let’s invite Him to take us—as that which is His own—and to cleanse us of whatever there is of this world that displeases Him and that should not be in us. Let’s allow Him to thoroughly purify us for His glory.

Wouldn’t that be the makings of personal ‘revival’?

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