15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” 18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18 NIV)
It was Monday when Jesus went to the temple area and saw what was happening. Needless to say, He didn’t like it. The “House of Prayer” had become the Jerusalem Mall as people, more concerned with making money than worshiping God, had taken over the outer court of the temple where the Gentiles were allowed. In the entire temple complex there was no place where the Gentiles were allowed to worship except in the Court of the Gentiles. How could they worship with the noise of livestock and merchants hocking their wares? The Gentiles couldn’t simply find another place in the temple complex to worship. Josephus tells us that there was a sign that threatened the Gentiles on punishment of death if they passed beyond the appointed mark. In 1871 an archeologist actually found a stone sign in Jerusalem carved with these words in Greek and Latin,
NO FOREIGNER IS TO GO BEYOND THE BALUSTRADE AND THE PLAZA OF THE TEMPLE ZONE WHOEVER IS CAUGHT DOING SO WILL HAVE HIMSELF TO BLAME FOR HIS DEATH WHICH WILL FOLLOW
Needless to say, the Jews in Jesus’ day saw the Gentiles as inferior. For those who are unfamiliar, if you are not Jewish, you are a Gentile. When Jesus came to the temple He could not believe His eyes, the Gentiles were being denied their worship space so that the businesspeople could line their pockets. Jesus quotes from Isaiah, “…for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7 NIV) It is interesting that the word used by Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is the Greek word, “?????” (ethnos), the word that we get our word, “ethnic” or “ethnicity” from.
Jesus came to announce that in God’s House there is room for all people. Those in Jesus’ day didn’t understand and if we choose to build walls around the House of God we show that we don’t understand either. It is not because of our ethnicity, education, or elegance that we find or place in God’s House. It isn’t because of our pedigree, power, position, or popularity that God has made room for us in His House. There is room for you and me in God’s House of Prayer because Jesus gave His life in order to tear down the wall that separates us from God and from one another. Paul wrote,
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… (Ephesians 2:13-14 NIV)
My prayer today, Lord, is that You will never let me forget what You have done through Your life, death, and resurrection to bring me near to You. Never let me forget so that I will do everything in my power to share your love with others so that they might be brought near to You as well.