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A House for Prayer - Mark 11:15-17

A House for Prayer

Mark 11:15-17

The Teacher's Bible Series

Paul J. Bucknell


Jesus’ cleaning out of the temple of the profiteers does not so much point us to salvation as much as the purpose of the church. The old system is condemned, but Jesus shows us God’s greater purpose for the people of God. All of us would become priests and we would, built on Christ the great Interceder, become the priests strategically placed in the world to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth’s shores. We are the House of Prayer. This is our calling! The question Jesus throws at our feet, “Are we corrupt like the priesthood back then because we do not emphasize prayer but what kind of foods or cars we like?” “Are we so busy in other matters of the world that we no longer fulfill our glorious calling?” (For shortened video)

There are three parts to this message. We will need to spend some time discussing the background to appreciate what Jesus is actually doing.

A) The Description of the Temple (Mark 11:15)
B) The Nature of Their Compromises (Mark 11:15-16)
C) The Need for Prayer (Mark 11:17)

Starter question:
What is your church's prayer life like? What should it look like?

Mark 11:15-19

 15 And they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to cast out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves; 16 and He would not permit anyone to carry goods through the temple. 17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” (Mark 11:15-17) (Other references: Mt 21:12-17, Lk 19:45-46, and other time Jn 2:13-17)

A) The Description of the Temple (Mark 11:15)

Jesus cleared out the temple two times, once at the beginning (only recorded in John) and this one, at the ending of His earthly ministry in passion week.

At the beginning of His ministry ( John 2:12-25), Jesus pointed to the corruption among the priests and inadequacy of Law to save. He was showing them what was important and the way back to God. Interestingly, this money exchange set up in the temple was a relatively new custom, evidently originated with Caiphas the High Priest who ordered the market to be set up. The Mount of Olivet was where the exchanges had traditionally been held.

Jesus’ gave a prophecy, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19). Jesus was alluding to His body rather than the physical temple. The Lord had rejected this defiled temple and already had plans for the newer one associated with the new High Priest since God had also rejected this high priest named Caiphas.

At the end of His ministry, recorded here and in the synoptic Gospels, took place on the second day of the Passion Week and pointed to the rejection of this defiled temple by God and soon coming tearing down and rebuilding of the new one by Jesus’ death and resurrection. “But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (Jn 2:21). In just a few days, the temple of God would be taken down through Christ’s death and then in another few days come alive. The prophecy would come true that very week by Christ’s resurrection. A whole new priestly arrangement would be set up incorporating His people saved from all nations to become His priesthood (1 Peter 2:9, Rev 1:6), later signified by the tearing of the holy of Holies’ robe down the middle during the earthquake that happened during Christ’s death. Jesus opened the access to God the Father through His life to all who believe in Jesus Christ.

The physical temple

Many of us have little idea of where Jesus actually did these things. It took place in the outer court of what was then known as Herod’s temple (an expansion of the rebuilt temple).

Herod's temple and outer court

There were four parts to the temple, each higher than the other with the Holy of Holies at the highest and most inner. From the outside there was the open court for the Gentiles, that is, those from anywhere (lit. nations), then there was the court of women (for men and clean women). The third was the court of Israel for men and sacrifices and lastly the fourth, the priestly court.

B) The Nature of Their Compromises (Mark 11:15-16)

Jesus is said to take three actions, all consisting of getting rid of the marketers and keeping them out: cast out, overturn tables, and not permitting them back in. Jesus was not the extremist here, but the priests and people were for allowing High Priest Caiaphas to set up this market! (None protested.) By allowing secretive profits in sacred areas, evil grew in God’s holy temple.

Four sins are obvious (From John 2:12-25):

  • Desecration of temple by trading animals in the temple area filled with market distractions.
  • A mandatory temple currency required money exchange and made profits (adults paid ½ shekel).
  • The temple priests allowed such unjust and unholy things in God’s house.
  • The people permitted their leaders to desecrate the temple area.

Whenever we focus on worldly interests, our worship has been corrupted. The holy has become stained. Compromises depict the demise of God’s holy standards. One compromise leads to another until what was good and helpful has become the centerpiece of God’s curse on the people. What compromises in your life are warping your values and social views?

One brief example is what started as a right to have an abortion. Abortion now has become an open disgrace to humankind. It started, seemingly with good purpose to provide rights for women, but in fact it distracted them from women’s calling to love and nurture children and gave them the right to kill.

legalizing abortion has created a death culture, breeding terorists

It is ironic that those who associate possession of guns with killings typically are in agreement with those who suck out brains of babies in utero. With the right to have abortions came, as predicted by Francis Schaeffer, the denigration of life and now in our newspapers Planned Parenthood selling baby parts! Life has lost its value. Mankind has become pretending to care for people but only hiding their evil intentions.

C) The Need for Prayer (Mark 11:17)

“And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘MY OUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’?”

Jesus uses ‘My house’ as a quote but really refers to His Father’s house here on earth. Jesus at 13 said He could be found in “My Father’s house” (Luke 2:49). “My house” is a term for God’s temple where God had revealed His glory.

“For all the nations” refers not to the necessity of reaching out to them, but more powerfully, infers it by filling His house with people from all the nations to join Him in interceding God’s will to be done.

7 “Even those I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar; For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples” (Isa. 56:7).

The toleration of evil, indicated by the term “robbers’ den” quoted from Jeremiah 7:11, holds us back from true worship. Toleration leads to evil by shunning the good and perfect. Evil needs to be wiped out to make room for the new. Only repentance and forgiveness can fully restore us for God’s purposes.

“Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels” (Hos 9:15).

The New Temple

Jesus, just days before He would die and rise again, is pointing to the whole new priesthood that would be set up. Paul in Ephesians clearly connects the remaining dots.

19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Eph 2:19-22).

God’s people have become that temple with Christ as the corner stone. We not only identify with Him in His holiness but also with his purpose of being the world’s interceders. This is why the urgent task of prayer is ours alone. Though we are now the priests, many a time we have thrown down the gauntlet of prayer for a game or television controller. Prayer is disappearing from our churches and so darkness is prowling about us.
Confusion in life means lack of purpose and ignorance of design. Many of us, filled with guilt, confusion and despair sought and found life in Christ. We thought this was the end of the road when it was actually putting us on the beginning of the road. God has made us a House of Prayer. We are the interceders for this generation.

We need to bind together and seek God’s will for those around us. Here are a few observations:

  • Compromises lead to lukewarmness.
  • Lukewarmness leads to shameful self-worship.
  • With repentance we can, by God’s grace, turn around by
  • God’s new covenant in Jesus.
  • Reestablish the priority of prayer.
  • The lack of emphasis on evangelism, prayer and missions is a sure sign of compromise.

action steps

God has so much more for His people, but we need to get back on track. Why have we been forever sitting at a bus station waiting for the bus. Jesus has come and made us one of the living stones in His House of Prayer. Let us get to the serious work of prayer now!

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Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted: (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988

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