4 March 2011

Mark 11:11-26

"Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and seats of those who sold doves, and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple." (vv. 15-16)


This passage begins very simply by stating that Jesus and the disciples came to Jerusalem and entered the temple. It is easy to pass over the significance of these simple phrases.

The journey to Jerusalem from Jericho was not a simple one. It involved a long, hard climb of nearly 4,000 feet through dry, dusty and rocky terrain. Those who have been to the Holy Land will have a picture of these conditions in their mind. Then, as travellers reach the summit of the Mount of Olives, there is the view of Jerusalem shimmering in the sunlight, the temple at its centre.

For Jesus and his disciples there was both exhilaration at the sight of Israel's most holy place, and apprehension.

Then they entered the temple. It is hard for us to imagine one single place in our country and culture that holds the same significance as the temple did for the Jews. It was at the very centre of their national life, worship and hope for the future. It was St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, the Old Bailey and the Bank of England and more all rolled into one.

Some commentators have explained the incident in the temple, of Jesus chasing away of the traders, as his condemnation of the commercialisation of the temple. There may well be an element of that. However, the fact that the 'cleansing of the temple' is sandwiched between the strange story of the fig tree should make us alert to that fact that there is more to the story than that.

Jesus' actions both with regard to the fig tree and the temple are stories of judgement. They are signs that the present order will be replaced by the new life of the kingdom where power is wielded for the benefit of all, especially the poor, and the where the elite do not laud it over others.

To Ponder

We are living in testing times, where issues of fairness are very much at the forefront of public consciousness. If Jesus were physically alive today, where might he wish to go and 'overturn the tables'?

As part of our discipleship, how might we as individuals and as church communities, work to bring about a fairer, more just and generous society?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.