Day 43

Cleansing the Temple

from the Ezekiel: Come to Life (Lent 2022) reading plan

Mark 11:12-19, Isaiah 56:1-8

BY Tameshia Williams

My sisters and I often laugh over a childhood memory: the time a church member, Sister Ruby Jean, caught us playing a game of spades in the church sanctuary. We girls waited for hours while our parents attended what seemed like the longest meeting. Boredom drove us to the only padded floor in the building. What a sight we must have been. Four adolescent girls sitting in various positions on the sanctuary’s muted red carpet, with small piles of already played cards scattered among us. Unplayed cards fanned out in our hands as we talked smack (a time-honored spades tradition) over who would win the current round.

Sister Ruby Jean’s gasp of shock interrupted our fun. Seconds of silence gave way to stutters and sputters. “What are y’all doing?…I can’t believe this…I have to tell your parents about this…This is God’s house.” In our minds, we were just playing cards in the only available spot in the building. From Ruby Jean’s perspective, we’d pretty much transformed God’s house into a Vegas cardroom.  

Today’s reading doesn’t involve cushioned floors or a standard 52-card deck, but it does involve a misuse of sacred space. Just days before Jesus’s crucifixion, He halted commercial activity in the temple, rebuking those involved. There’s lots of disagreement regarding the motivation behind Jesus’s actions, but His own words give a clue. 

“My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” —Mark 11:17

It’s generally agreed that this narrative took place in the temple area known as the Court of the Gentiles. Jesus’s expulsion of seller and buyer had much to do with where they were conducting their business. The temple was regarded as the central meeting place between God and humanity. But the one place where even Gentiles were allowed to worship had been transformed into a “den of thieves” (Mark 11:17). The activity of the market was taking precedence over the area being a space of worship for non-Jews.

After reading this passage again, I’ve realized that I can spend so much time marveling at Jesus’s righteous indignation or spend hours scouring commentaries to get all of the details just right. But in doing so I can easily overlook the message underlying Jesus’s behavior. 

Jesus’s actions and words reveal God’s desire for all people to enjoy His presence. If I move beyond just associating this passage with anger, even justifiable, I find a beautiful display of love. This divine love is from a God who has such a heart for people from all nations to know Him that He is moved to action when anything blocks their access to Him. How very true to the gospel of Jesus.

In a few days, the Lenten season will peak with the celebration of Jesus’s great act of love expressed through His death. The temple narrative reminds me that His life is also a testimony of His love. Today, let’s take a moment to celebrate that truth.

Post Comments (46)

46 thoughts on "Cleansing the Temple"

  1. Alayna P. says:


  2. Shaena Elizabeth says:

    And his people.

  3. Shaena Elizabeth says:

    ANGIE-prayers for your church searching. I attended the same church my entire life until about a year ago and I too found it so interesting the different types of services once we found ourselves church searching. I too found myself pondering which environment prepared my heart for worship best. I love that God makes space for all nations and peoples and this can be so beautifully expressed in the various churches we can choose to attend. I am finding the older I get the more loosely I hold denominations and church traditions and the more I desire to have a personal relationship with El ROI- the God who sees me ❤️ I loved that the devotional pointed out that Jesus was angry that there were barriers being set up between him

  4. Jennifer Anapol says:

    I love the idea that Jesus didn’t want anything to get in the way of Gentiles finding their way to him. God has always loved people from every nation, tribe and tongue. I pray I can love all people the way Jesus does. ❤️

  5. Dorothy says:

    The verses in Isaiah point out how God was welcoming “others” along to worship Him as long as they follow His commandments. This brings to mind two women who didn’t start out worshipping the Lord but in the end did — Rehab and Ruth, both in the linage of Jesus. Isn’t amazing what God can and will do when we decide to trust Him.
    Sisters, be blessed and trust in the Lord and in Christ.

  6. Stacey says:

    Soo good! Jesus actions were not only of anger but also love. This divine love is from a God who has such a heart for people to know Him that He is moved to action when anything blocks their access to Him. Makes me think of us being the temple. Sometimes we need cleansing. As hard and painful it can be, that’s still Gods favor and love.

  7. Sky Hilton says:

    As we begin this Holy Week, I hope that we can all reflect, think about, and thank Jesus for His sacrifice in dying for all of us. We must remember that at any time Jesus could have said no- or given up- but He never did. We do not deserve heaven, but through Jesus, we have a chance to go to heaven . We are undeserving of the sacrifice He made for us.. but we are in such awe that He loved us that much

  8. Stacey Hamilton says:

    Thank you for sharing this Heather! I’ve always wondered about the story of the fig tree & why Jesus responded the way He did. This makes so much sense now!

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