By Bob Bunn
I’m what you might call a “collector.” I have a sentimental attachment to things like cards and letters. I love buying books, especially biographies and history. When I put things together, I keep the extra parts because you never know when you need a spare screw or an Allen wrench.
My wife sees things differently. She says I can’t get rid of stuff.
She’s probably right.
So, over the years, I’ve tried to get better at throwing things away or passing them along. For example, I try to donate old clothes that I don’t wear anymore. Occasionally, I’ll trim my book collection by selling some to used bookstores. I go through my files every so often and discard what I don’t need anymore.
I’m still a work in progress, but I hope I’m getting better at clearing junk from my life.
In Mark 11, Jesus was continuing His journey toward the cross and the resurrection. That journey led him to the temple, where Jews from all over were gearing up for the Passover. There was lots of activity. Unfortunately, most of it was spiritual junk. So, Jesus cleaned things up.
When we talk about Jesus cleansing the temple, it’s important to understand that He wasn’t angry with the “what,” but with the “where.” See, the services being provided were necessary. The people needed to exchange their money because the temple tax could not be paid in their normal currency. It would be similar to us exchanging our dollars for euros when we travel overseas.
In addition, the people needed animals. Many came from long distances, which made keeping up with a sacrificial gift difficult. Buying an animal in Jerusalem was a much better option for them.
But the problem was where all this was happening. Some scholars believe the traders had once set up shop in the area around the Mount of Olives, near the city gate and the temple, but still outside the walls. When they moved their operation into the temple, they took up space in an area known as the Court of the Gentiles. Because access to certain parts of the temple was limited to Jewish men, this was the only place in the whole complex where anyone could worship God, regardless of race or gender. With all that activity going on, though, focusing on the Lord would have been next to impossible.
Jesus understood that the business of buying and selling in the temple was hindering the true business of the temple—connecting with God. That’s why He cleaned house. He was removing distractions and restoring an environment of worship for everyone—Jews and Gentiles, men and women.
If you’re like me, you have plenty of distractions that keep you from fully plugging into worship. As we move through Holy Week toward Easter, let’s ask God to help us do a cleansing of our own hearts to clear out all that keeps us from Him.