You are hereThe King Closes the Temple (Mark 11)

The King Closes the Temple (Mark 11)

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By Virgil - Posted on 14 June 2004

"Hosanna!" They shouted in the streets that day. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem that morning, the people acclaimed him as a King. They cheered for him. They shouted for him. "Hosanna, hosanna! Hosanna son of David." They were looking for a leader. They were looking for a conqueror. They were looking for a rescuer. “Hosanna!” they shouted in the streets. “Hosanna,” which means “Save us now! Save us now!” They were looking for someone to rescue them from the burdens placed on them by an oppressive government. For nearly a hundred years Israel had been occupied by the Roman Empire. They had lost their national sovereignty. They had lost their independence. And now they were being occupied by corrupt, vulgar, foreigners who had no respect for their Jewish heritage, the Laws of Moses or for their worship of the one true God. They were forced to pay taxes for to a government they didn’t want forced to support and pay for the very soldiers who had stolen their land.

There were some who advocated open rebellion to these Gentile oppressors. The Zealots, though not fully organized at the time of Jesus, battled against the Romans using guerilla tactics; ambushing them from caves along the roads, and raiding armories for weapons and supplies. They would eventually lead the people into a full-scale war against the Romans; this, however, would end in tragedy and slaughter.

They were looking for someone to rescue them from the rapid decline of morality and culture, as they perceived it. With the influx of Greek and Roman language, and government, also came the influx of Greek and Roman culture. They felt that their Jewish culture, their heritage, and their values, – based on the Laws of Moses - were under attack by the occupation government. The Pharisees (meaning “the separated”) responded to this perceived attack by advocating a strict adherence to the Torah – or rather to their interpretation of the Torah.

Another group, the Essenes, also called for a separation from the declining civilization. They believed that the ‘end was at hand,’ they expected that the ‘Day of the Lord’ was right around the corner. So they removed themselves from society; set themselves up in a pietistic community in the wilderness near the Dead Sea to wait for the coming Messiah who would lead the “Sons of Light” in a 40 year battle against the “Sons of Darkness.”

Everyone was looking for a leader to come and resole their problems; to remove the foreign oppressors, to take away the oppressive taxation, to restore the purity of the Torah. Everyone was looking for a King to come to them – the promised Messiah who would raise an army and who would ride into the city of Jerusalem to rescue them.

Just under two hundred before, Israel had been in a similar situation. The tyrannical Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes IV began promoting Greek culture over and against Jewish culture, plundered and defiled the Temple, and forbid adherence to the Torah. The Jews of that time had looked for a hero, and had found one in Judas Maccabee (Judas “the hammer”.) Judas Maccabee led the people in a struggle for freedom, and was eventually victorious.

Maccabaeus and his companions then set about restoring the temple and the city of Jerusalem. They purified the sanctuary and built a new altar. Then, carrying leafy branches and palms, they offered hymns to God for bringing them to this happy outcome. (2 Macc. 10: 1 – 8) They celebrated their military victory over their evil oppressors by waving green palm branches.

“Hosanna!” they shouted as Jesus rode into Jerusalem that morning. “Save us now!” they shouted as they waved their palm branches. Here he was, the coming King, as prophesied by Zechariah:

Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion!

Shout for Joy, daughter of Jerusalem!

Look, your King is approaching,

He is vindicated and victorious,

Humble and riding on a donkey,

On a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He will banish chariots from Ephraim

And horses from Jerusalem;

The bow of war will be banished

He will proclaim peace to the nation,

His empire will stretch from sea to sea,

From the River to the limits of the earth.

Zech 9: 9 - 10

The King was coming – the one who would bring victory and peace to the people, who would bring freedom and who would establish his kingdom of justice over the whole world. “Save us! Save us! Save us! Save us!” they shouted. “Blessed is the coming kingdom of David our father!”

I imagine that they followed him from the city gates through the crowed city streets (especially crowded during this Passover season) to the temple – still chanting and cheering, “Save us! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Save us! Blessed is the coming kingdom!" They follow as Jesus dismounts from his donkey (perhaps wondering why the coming king isn’t riding something more dignified or more appropriate…) and as he enters the outer courts of the temple.

They’re ready. They’re waiting. They are anxiously anticipating his Messianic and Kingly pronouncement here in the temple courts. But Jesus isn’t saying anything. He’s not doing anything except watching as the merchants make their sales. He watches the people buying animals to be used as sacrifices in the inner courts of the temple. But he isn’t saying anything.

And then he turns around, takes the donkey’s bridle and leads him back out of town. Jesus goes back out to Bethany to spend the night. It’s anti-climactic. The crowds were there. The crowds were ready to follow and cheer, and if Jesus had said, “death to the Roman oppressors” they would have leaped to tackle the nearest Roman soldier. But Jesus only turned around and walked silently out of the city.

The next morning, without the cheering crowd this time, Jesus again made his way to the temple. And this time he was ready for action, he was ready to use force – but it wasn’t directed against the evil Roman oppressors. Jesus began driving out the men selling and buying there in the temple courts. He upset the tables of the money changers and the seats of the dove sellers. He made a whip out of some braided cords and began whipping them – forcefully driving them out of the temple. “My house will be called a house of prayer! But you have made it a den of robbers!” he shouted, quoting from the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.

And then he did something peculiar – something I never really picked up on before. He would not allow anyone to carry anything through the Temple. The Temple courts were large and spacious – so I imagine that he may have stationed the disciples at the many gates to keep the people from carrying things through the Temple. But why would he do such a thing?

You will know that very early on in their history God had instituted a certain set of rituals for the Jews and their worship. These riturals (described in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) necessitated that the priests would carry many things through the temple. They had to bring the animals into the temple. They had to bring ropes bind them upon the altar, and knives to slay them. They had to catch the blood of these animals and carry it in bowels into the holy place to sprinkle it on the altar of incense. They had to take a portion of the animal the bodies away as food for the priests while hte other portion was burned. Then they had to remove the ashes and carry them back out again. So there was a continual procession of priests through that temple all day long, carrying out the system of rituals which God himself had given this nation.

But on this day, when the King came into the temple, he stopped it dead in its tracks. "He would not permit any one to carry anything through the temple," He rejected the worship rituals and system of the Temple. He declared it to be invalid and obsolete.

Instead of the coming King putting an end to the Roman occupation – he put an end to the Temple worship and its sacrificial system. He was declaring the entire system to be invalid and obsolete. Though the Jews later restored this traffic, and kept it up for forty years more until the temple was destroyed, never again did those sacrifices have any meaning before God.

The King had come and he had brought salvation and peace and freedom – but not by destroying the Roman army but by destroying the Temple worship and its animal sacrifices. He destroyed the need for the temple and the animal sacrifices by his own sacrificial death, and by his victorious and glorious resurrection.

The King has come and He is vindicated and victorious! He has brought peace to His people in all nations.

Apollos's picture

Interesting thought, but is it really possible that in the context of clearing the temple of moneychangers and their "stuff" the text refers to the sacrifices themselves?

4632. skeuos, skyoo'-os; of uncert. affin.; a vessel, implement, equipment or apparatus (lit. or fig. [spec. a wife as contributing to the usefulness of the husband]):--goods, sail, stuff, vessel.

I'm no Greek scholar but what with what helps I have, it seems like a stretch to make it mean Christ was putting an end to the sacrificial system. He was clearly addressing the abuses but I'm not convinced the text suggests the end of the efficacy of the system at this point.

I'd love to see the idea developed further from scripture.


Apollos's picture

'I'm no Greek scholar but what with what helps I have, it seems like a stretch to make it mean Christ was putting an end to the sacrificial system...'

Is it a stretch to say that Christ propitiated God once and for all with his sacrifice? Paul didn't think so.

Killing a cow and burning it's guts doesn't propitiate God, it just creates a foul smell.

Likewise, when God ripped the temple curtain and men patched it up, did they block access to God? No, they effectively did nothing. The Jew's system is as obsolete as the Aztecs. It's over, only Satan would like it reinstated because it robs Christ of his accomplishment by claiming Christ's sacrifice didn't REALLY propitiate God - the cross is diminished.

chrisliv's picture


Oppression by the Romans was just one of the results from their idolatry and disregard for their covenant with God.

Providing outward liberation to a people who only know the rule of Satan would probably do more harm than good.


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