(The gospel writer Mark is speaking to us.)
Jesus explained his Temple protest by saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
“Den of robbers” is a reference to Jeremiah, who had spoken the words several hundred years previously. Jeremiah had spoken in the Temple, yet not the same one that Jesus knew. That first temple had been destroyed. It was a destruction permitted by God because the people of Israel had turned away from God. Their rebellion included taking advantage of the poor and vulnerable, people like foreigners and orphans and widows. In recalling Jeremiah, Jesus was saying to temple leadership: ‟Do not be surprised if this temple, also, is destroyed. For you are not doing what God intends. For you are placing your own power and status above the needs of the poor.”
It was Monday when Jesus staged his protest. At the end of the day he left. He returned the next day and spoke some more about how religious leaders were failing to follow God’s way. He warned his listeners to watch out for those who parade their religion but do not lift a finger to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. ‟Watch out,” he said, ‟for those who like to walk around in fancy clothes, to bask in the glow of prominent position, and to sit at the head of the table. Yet all the time they are exploiting the weak and the helpless.”
God of justice: Protect us from the danger of using religion to glorify ourselves. Help us to follow your Son in service to others. Amen.