With all the extra time I have this semester due to not being in class, I’ve had a lot more time to read and be in the Word which has been so good. One book I’ve been reading is Tim Keller’s newest book (besides his book on marriage, which I am also reading with Jon for our pre-marital counseling!) called King’s Cross. I’m borrowing it from my friend and mentor Dawn, who highly recommended it.
King’s Cross goes through the book of Mark because this gospel focuses most intently on the words and actions of Jesus. It also presents Jesus’s life “in two symmetrical acts: his identity as King over all things, (in Mark chapters 1-8) and his purpose in dying on the cross (in Mark chapters 9-16)” (xiv). Keller split his book up into these two sections as well.
Keller doesn’t comment on every single passage, but rather focuses on the texts he believes expand on Jesus’s identity and purpose the most. What I really like about this is that these aren’t necessarily the most well-known, preached-on passages. And in those texts that are well-known, Keller always brings some insight from the historical context that gives the passage a new layer of meaning I would have never realized on my own. I’ve been shocked by how many passages are really pretty hard to understand on the surface. I’ve realized I’ve glazed over a lot of things I don’t understand, just dismissing some things as irrelevant details to include, or thinking maybe something got lost in translation.
Yesterday I read about Jesus clearing the temple, and I really love the new understanding I have of this passage, so I thought I would share….Mark 11:15-17:
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts 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’[c]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’[d]”
Keller says the fact that Mark notes that Jesus entered the temple courts – or in the version Keller uses, the temple “area” – is very significant because when you entered the temple, the first area you came to “was the court of the Gentiles – the ethne or ‘nations'” (156). This was the only area where non-Jews were allowed. The Jews had allowed all the temple’s business operations to be set up there – buying and selling thousands of animals and exchanging foreign currencies with money changers. Thousands of people flooded into Jerusalem to buy animals and sacrifice them.
“The ancient historian Josephus tells us that in Passover week one year, 255,000 lambs were bought, sold and sacrificed in the temple courts. Think of how tumultuous, loud, and confusing our financial trading floors are – and then add livestock. And this was the place where the Gentiles were supposed to find God through quiet reflection and prayer” (156).
Surely the temple leaders panicked and asked Jesus what he was doing. Jesus quoted from Isaiah, saying, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” – for the ethne, the Gentiles.
So Jesus’s reaction, then – to drive the businessmen out and throw the tables over – was not just a display of righteous anger toward the disrespect people were showing to God’s house, but also an act of advocacy for the Gentiles, who were still being treated as the “least” of God’s people by the Jews.
Keller says it was popularly believed that when the Messiah came, he would “purge the temple of foreigners,” meaning get rid of the Gentiles! “Instead, here is Jesus clearing the temple for the Gentiles” (157).
Even more than this, Jesus was saying that the Gentiles could go to God directly in prayer. This undermined the entire sacrificial system. The point of this system was to atone for sins…as a way for people to ask forgiveness for their sins and speak to God. Instead, Jesus said that even the Gentiles could actually go to God on their own, without these sacrifices.
I found this very significant and even personal because as a non-Jew, I – and almost every other Christian I know – am from the line of the Gentiles. So this passionate act of advocacy by Jesus is for me and for you. It’s a reminder of Jesus’s desire for us to have free and unhindered communication with God. He not only died on the cross to give us this, but he also fought against the religious structure that barred us from a personal relationship with the Lord while He was on Earth.
I highly recommend this book! There are several other passages that have really stood out to me, so hopefully I’ll be able to post about those as well.
On a less serious note, watch this satirical video of Jesus clearing the temple and other parts of Mark 11. The point of the video is to break down the legalistic, impersonal and unemotional picture Christians have often (incorrectly!) painted of Jesus. It’s okay to laugh at this – it’s supposed to be funny! These “Jesus Videos” were made in 2003 by Vintage 21, a church here in Raleigh that Jon actually used to go to. There are three others you can find on the same page if you appreciate this sense of humor!