Mark 11:17-18 “And Jesus began to teach and to say to them, ‘Is it not written ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robber’s den.’ And the chief priests and scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him.”
In a burst of indignation, Jesus went into the Temple, and began to cast out the merchants who had set up shop there; everyone who had turned the Temple into a business for profit. He overturned the tables of the money-changers who preyed on pilgrims by exchanging their foreign currency for acceptable “Temple currency” at immoral exchange rates.
When He finished the man-handling, Jesus chastised the people for their money-grubbing ways and reminded them that the Temple was to be a house of prayer for all the nations; not a way to extort wealth from foreigners.
Predictably, this did little to impress the priests and scribes who undoubtedly had a financial interest in it all. Jesus had painted a target on His back.
It’s easy, in our humanity, to lose sight of the main thing. Jesus reminded His audience that day that the ancient Temple is not a place for business but a base for prayer.
We should be careful about drawing too many direct parallels between the ancient Temple of Israel and the modern Church. One was a building with a purpose; the other is a people with a purpose. But this stark incident in the ministry of Jesus begs a question or two: Is the Church, as the body and bride of Christ, fulfilling her purpose? And, of course, do we have clarity on that purpose?
We need a spiritual compass that points to true north.
Our fallen DNA tends to distort (usually in subtle and gradual ways) every good thing that Christ gives to us. Thus, we tend to speak of the church as a building or location (“Meet you at the church”) or an event (“How was church this morning?”) or an organization (“What’s the church’s view on gay marriage?). Perhaps we are as confused about our purpose and identity as those money-changers and animal-sellers in the days of Jesus.
The church is the people of God bearing witness to the Lordship of Christ, the hope of the Gospel, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the kingdom of God in the world. Each of these elements forms a crucial corner of the foundation. And if these mark the church, it’s only because they mark our personal lives.
How does that checklist look for you?