Easter Explained – Part 1
From You Version
For the last 1,600 years, Christians around the world remember the last days of Jesus’ life during Holy Week. Today is Holy Monday. Holy Monday remembers the day Jesus came into Jerusalem’s temple with a homemade whip in his hand (John 2:15).
The temple was supposed to be a place where pilgrims from all over the world could come and offer sacrifices and receive forgiveness from God. But the religious establishment had decided that the temple courtyard, a space normally reserved for non-Jews to worship God, should also double as a livestock market for sacrificial animals. This guaranteed tighter control and higher profits for the Jewish elite who controlled the markets, but at the expense of the ability for non-Jewish pilgrims to have a place to worship. Instead of prayers in languages from around the world, the temple was filled with the braying of animals, the haggling of vendors, and the stench of manure. The worship of the nations was sacrificed so that some could line their pockets. Angry, Jesus flips over tables and prevents merchants from moving through the courtyard in a direct challenge to the priorities of Jerusalem’s religious establishment (Mark 11:15-16).
With a captive audience Jesus then quotes from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and says: ‘Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers’ (Mark 11:17). The crowd sees the truth in what Jesus is saying. Israel’s religious establishment has marginalized the worship of non-Jews for money. The temple was meant to be a place for all people to experience God’s presence and forgiveness, and that is being stolen from them. Publicly exposed and cornered, the religious elite plot to kill Jesus (Mark 11:18).
But Jesus isn’t just a prophet exposing corruption. Jesus is acting with authority. He calls the temple ‘my house.’ Part of the reason Jesus takes such dramatic action is because he is God, and God has the right to change, critique, and even tear down his temple if he wants to (John 2:18-22).
Holy Monday is good news because Jesus announces he has come to restore God’s temple to its original purpose. The temple was supposed to be a place where all people could make sacrifices and receive forgiveness. So on Holy Monday Jesus’ actions prove he will end a temple regime committed to greed and ethnic pride so that a better temple can rise to never exclude the nations again. And Jesus himself is this renewed temple. His body is our temple. He is where forgiveness is offered to all people. And in him there is no room for merchants or money because his forgiveness is free.
But when Jesus stops the buying and selling of sacrificial animals, he isn’t just dooming a corrupt system; he’s also offering himself as an alternative sacrifice. Turning over the tables is also Jesus’ way of saying that he is willing to be the sacrifice that grants all nations the forgiveness of God.
So I pray that on this Holy Monday you will accept Jesus as your new temple and as the free sacrifice that grants God’s forgiveness to people from all nations.