1.25 Synoptics -- Cleansing of the Temple
Mat 21:12-13, Mk 11:15-17, Lk 19:45-46. All three writers record the cleansing of the Temple, which was Jesus' assault on the business of religion. Jesus sanctioned his action by quoting the end of a passage from Isaiah:
"My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of robbers" (Mk 11:17).
The larger context of this passage in Isaiah is:
"And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant -- these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations" (Isa 56:6-7).
And from Jeremiah:
"Has this house, which bears My Name, become a den of robbers to you?" (Jer 7:11).
Curiously, only Mark includes the phrase "for all nations." Again we see Jesus' frequent technique of coupling tradition with innovation. This kept the religious leaders off-balance. If he could cite precedent in the Law or the Prophets for his actions, they could not accuse him of heresy. And this was a body blow, he hit them where it hurt -- right in the pocketbook and in the center of their religious monopoly.
But it was more than just a judgment on those who profited from other men's worship, it was a sign of the end of the Old Covenant. This sign was the declaration that the Way was now open for Gentiles to come before the Lord and offer acceptable worship, a thing impossible under the Old Testament. Most of Isa 56 is about opening the house of God to foreigners and eunuchs. At the beginning of his ministry, in Nazareth, Jesus quoted Isa 61:1-2, and then said, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:16-21). In the same way, at the Temple, he was inaugurating the fulfilment of Isa 56, opening the Temple to Gentiles. From now on, all men shall have access to God's house. But that house will no longer be a temple of stone, it will be his own body.