Friday, March 27, 2015

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday March 29, 2015

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(JESUS’ Temple will be called a place of prayer)
(Mark 11:1-18, John 2:13-25)

Mark chapter 11 marks the beginning of the last week of JESUS’ physical life here on Earth. John Mark opens the chapter with a vivid description of JESUS, setting the stage for HIS “triumphant entry” into Jerusalem. It is the last leg of JESUS’ incredible journey in route to HIS own execution.
When JESUS rode into Jerusalem that day, HE claimed to be a King, however, by riding in on a Donkey, HE was claiming specifically to be a King of peace. This was in sharp contrast to everything the people had expected from JESUS in the end. We even see them greeting HIM, as the “Son of David”, and probably expected HIM to come into Jerusalem that day with fierce fighting, as David had done some 950 years before HIM, but even now, they didn’t seem to understand the whole purpose of JESUS’ ministry.
Here we see them thinking of JESUS’ arrival at Jerusalem, as a long-awaited, physical conquest that was about to take place. It is even suggested in their shouts of “Hosanna” in verse 9, which means “save us now”. Their welcome was one that befitted a Conqueror, who was there to slay the enemy of HIS people, however, by the end of the week, JESUS HIMSELF, would be treated as an enemy to the Jews.
When JESUS arrived in Jerusalem, HE went directly to the Temple and cast out the unsavory characters that were found within. In the Greek, the word the Apostle Paul uses to describe GOD’s goodness, as in “the goodness by which HE can rebuke and discipline us”, is “agathosune” ( ag-ath-o-soo-nay). It is a word that does not occur in secular Greek. This is the word that applies to JESUS’ actions in verses 15-17, when HE ejected the robbers and moneychangers from the temple because they had desecrated GOD’s Holy Place.
By overcharging the people for animals, used to give as sacrifices to GOD at the Temple, and, by charging them too large of a fee to convert their money over to the proper local currency, they were, in effect, blocking these people from worshipping GOD. Here, JESUS seeks to remind us not to block anyone from worshipping GOD, and, that GOD loves, not just the Jews, but, all the nations of the world.
There is, perhaps, no other place in Scriptures, where we feel reminded, that we need to make a more conscious effort to be fair in our dealings with each other. There were many crooked people in the Temple Court that day, but there were also many others, whose hearts were set on GOD. The LORD will never hold blameless, those who make it hard, or impossible for others to worship HIM.
False teachers and ministers who deceitfully profess to be men of GOD are always more concerned with imposing their ways of doing things, on their congregation, than they are with preaching and teaching the word of GOD, or the salvation of their flocks. Remember, JESUS didn’t send everyone in the temple away that day, but rather, it only those who were blocking the worship of GOD, by making it difficult, or impossible for the poorest among them to afford animal sacrifices used in worship of HIM.
In the Apostle John’s Gospel account, in chapter 2, verses 13-25, unlike the three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, JESUS’ cleansing of the temple at Jerusalem comes at the beginning of JESUS’ ministry, rather than near the end. This fact, and, the differences in their narrations, leads most scholars to believe that there were probably two temple cleansings performed by JESUS, during HIS three-year ministry, one at the beginning, which caught the people by surprise, and a second in the third and final year, probably during HIS “passion week”. This second cleansing (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) probably contributed more heavily to the Jewish leader’s plans and desires to kill JESUS.
In John’s account, at the time of the annual Jewish Passover, JESUS went up to Jerusalem, as was HIS custom, and visited the temple, most likely to teach and preach. However, in the “court of the Gentiles”, the outermost court of the temple, the Jews had begun a tradition of buying and selling animals used for sacrifices at the temple, during Passover. They rationalized these activities, as providing a convenience for the pilgrims, who had journeyed into Jerusalem from afar, and needed lambs, or doves, or, needed their currency changed over to the local currency so that they could participate in the Passover rituals and celebrations. 
Unfortunately, like all of the best-laid plans of men, abuses soon developed, and pilgrims became, more often than not, victims of scams and high prices, by corrupt dealers and merchants. For instance, they had even begun to charge an admission fee, or dues, in order to enter into the temple during Passover.
When JESUS saw all of this corrupt activity, taking place in the House of GOD, HE made HIMSELF a whip from some ropes and chased all of the merchants and moneychangers, and their livestock, out of the temple. HE then walked over to those who sold doves and instructed them to take their birds and leave the temple also, because they were turning the house of GOD into a marketplace that was attracting robbers and thieves.
When the angry Jewish leaders, who were, no doubt, getting their cut from the temple proceeds, asked JESUS, “What right did HE have to clear the temple?”, and, to show them a miraculous sign if HIS authority came from the LORD, JESUS responded by telling them to “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”.
Now it had been 46 years since King Herod the great had started rebuilding on the temple that Zerubbabel and his crew had constructed, following the Israelites 70-year stint in Babylonian captivity. Herod had decided that he would restore the temple back to the glorious state that King Solomon had brought to it, during his prosperous reign. However, the temple that JESUS spoke of was the temple of HIS OWN body, a statement that the spiritual-less Pharisees were incapable of hearing, and actually, so too were HIS disciples, at that time.
The disciples, however, did recall this statement after JESUS’ Resurrection, and because of the many miraculous signs and wonders that JESUS performed at the Passover, many other people were also convinced that HE was truly the MESSIAH. However, JESUS didn’t trust them, because HE knew what people were like. After all, HE was present at the beginning of creation (John 1:1), and so no one needed to tell HIM about human nature.
JESUS disrupted the ungodly activities that were taking place at the temple in Jerusalem because it had become a den of robbers and thieves whose greatest sin was that, they were blocking the poor, who couldn’t afford their services, from worshiping GOD in the temple during Passover.
Notice how differently JESUS handled those who sold doves (John 2:16). The dove was mostly used by the poor as an acceptable sacrifice for Passover worship, but their product may have been hard for the poor to acquire because of temple admission fees, and the exorbitant money exchanging fees, that were required before the purchase.
JESUS was not protesting against the sacrificial system itself, however, here, the purpose of the sacrifices was being lost to the criminal element. Then too, the merchants were also transacting their business inside the temple in the only area where the Gentiles were permitted to enter, thus, they were also blocking the Gentile’s opportunity and right to worship peacefully.
And so, even though the dove merchants were providing a similar temple service for the poor, they were still, in tandem with the other merchants, blocking another segment of GOD’s people from worship, in this case, the Gentiles. Here in this passage, JESUS is clearly showing us that GOD will not hold blameless, anyone, who blocks another human being, made in HIS spiritual image, from worshipping HIM, at any time, not in the Christian Church of the first century, and certainly not in the Christian Church today.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

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