Mark 11:15-17 (NIV)
15On 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, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
Soon after arriving in Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday, Jesus went to the Temple and caused quite a ruckus. At first look, one might say, “What’s the big deal?” After all, youth groups have fundraising dinners at churches all the time. Congregations raise money for mission trips by having car washes in their parking lots. Churches have fairs and clothing sales and stuff like this all the time. Would Jesus show up at one of these events and toss us out? Probably not.
Let’s take a closer look at this story. First, it was the money changers. These weren’t simply cashiers. Every Jewish man was required to pay an annual “temple tax” of a half-shekel, which was equivalent to two day’s wages. The thing is, shekels were not the only coins in circulation at the time. Other coins from other countries, while also made of precious metals, were considered “unclean” by the religious authorities, and therefore unacceptable as payment for the temple tax. So, anybody who had these coins would have to exchange them for shekels. And for this service, the money exchangers would charge them as much as a full day’s wage! It was a total rip-off, and the people were trapped because they were required by law to pay their tax.
Meanwhile, this was during the Passover celebration. Again, it was the law that during the festival a Jewish man was required to sacrifice an animal on the altar, as repentance for his sins. You know how, when you go to the movie theater, they charge you $2.50 for a 16 oz. Pepsi®? And you know darn well you could buy a 2-liter of Pepsi® on sale at the grocery store for 99 cents. Of course, the theater won’t let you in with your own soda, so they have you trapped and can charge you an outrageously high price. Well, that’s exactly what the people selling animals at the temple were doing. In fact, the prices were so high some poorer people couldn’t afford to make their religious sacrifice. This made Jesus very angry.
What does Jesus teach us here? Certainly, we are not to stand idly by while people are being exploited—especially if we have the power to change it. What are some situations you can think of at school where people are being treated unfairly or are being taken advantage of, and what can you do about it? Talk to your youth leader about it and pray together for guidance.
If today’s devotion spoke to you in a particular way and you feel led to share your thoughts with others, please do so.