Jose pastored a church known for its programs and theatrical productions. They were well done, yet he worried the church’s busyness had slipped into a business. Was the church growing for the right reasons or because of its activities? Jose wanted to find out, so he canceled all extra church events for one year. His congregation would focus on being a living temple where people worshiped God.
Jose’s decision seems extreme, until you notice what Jesus did when He entered the temple’s outer courts. The holy space that should have been full of simple prayers had become a flurry of worship business. “Get your doves here! Lily white, as God requires!” Jesus overturned the merchant’s tables and stopped those who bought their merchandise. Furious at what they were doing, He quoted Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7: “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers’” (Mark 11:17). The court of the gentiles, the place for outsiders to worship God, had been turned into a mundane marketplace for making money.
There’s nothing wrong with business or staying busy. But that’s not the point of church. We’re the living temple of God, and our main task is to worship Jesus. We likely won’t need to flip over any tables as Jesus did, but He may be calling us to do something equally drastic.
Father, show us where our expectations of worship fail to please You. Help us see that it’s all about You.
A common literary technique Mark uses is what is sometimes called a “Markan sandwich.” In this technique, Mark interrupts one story (A) with another story (B) before returning to the first story (A), allowing both to inform how we interpret the meaning of each individually. Mark 11 offers a classic example of this “sandwich” technique. This chapter tells of Jesus cursing a fruitless fig tree (vv. 13–14), then shifts to Jesus driving out the temple’s sellers of merchandise (vv. 15–18), before returning to the fig tree (vv. 20–21). Jesus’ curse of the fig tree, withering it down to the roots (Mark 11:20) seems to symbolize His condemnation of the corrupt temple leadership that rejected Him. It’s likely He had Jeremiah 8:13 in mind: “There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.”
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