Turning Over Tables
And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out
those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the
money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow
anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying
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 den of robbers." - Mark 11:15–17 (ESV)
You may have been in a meeting before, and someone asks, "What do you pound the
table for?" What are they looking for when they ask that question? They want to know
what you are passionate about, what moves you to action, or what you deeply care
If there was a table to be pounded in the story above, I would presume that Jesus would
have done so. Instead of pounding tables, Jesus overturns them! And this was not the
only time Jesus overturned tables. John 2 speaks of the first occasion, and each of the
three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) portray the second occasion. Jesus was
serious about something. But what was it that drove Jesus to overturn so many tables?
It was His ZEAL FOR THE LORD! It was His desire to see all the nations encounter and
worship the Living God.
The people had turned the court of the Gentiles into a marketplace rather than a place
of sacred reverence and adoration of God. John MacArthur says, "The sound of
heartfelt praise and fervent prayers had been drowned out by the bawling of oxen, the
bleating of sheep, the cooing of doves, and the loud haggling of vendors and their
Amidst the commotion, you see Jesus' heart. He proclaims Isaiah 56:7: "My house shall
be called a house of prayer for all the nations." If you look at the context of Isaiah 56, it
speaks of the eunuchs, the foreigners, and the outcasts who are all invited to have a
relationship with the Lord. And here in this story, these people are not getting the
opportunity to do that.
In John 2:17, after the disciples watched Jesus cleanse the temple the first time, it
caused them to recall Psalm 69:9: "Zeal for Your house will consume Me." Zeal for
God's glory consumed Jesus, and you see it clearly displayed in cleansing the temple
not once, but twice.
I have just started doing a study on John 17, in which someone has said, "It is the
greatest prayer that was ever offered on earth and it followed the greatest sermon that was
ever preached on earth." How does Jesus open up the "greatest prayer that was ever offered
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said,
"Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you
have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given
him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ
whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you
gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I
had with you before the world existed. - John 17:1-5 (ESV)
It is abundantly clear that Jesus' main concern was the glory of the Lord being known
among all nations. That's why he turned over tables! Sin was keeping men from seeing
God's glory, so He acted. I mean think about that scene for a minute. He had a whip,
animals were running around frantically, pigeons flying around, the sound of coins
hitting the floor, the mean and confused looks from the money changers, and I would
imagine some choice words for Jesus too. Praise Jesus for being perfect! Praise Him
for His righteous anger! Praise Him for placing the worship of God over the approval of
others! If I am honest, I don't have that kind of zeal for God's house and His glory. If I
was in that situation, I would have cared too much about what people were thinking
about me. I would have tried to be "polite" and "nice" about it. "Hey sir, do you...do you
think you could....um um...take your table out by the street...." I might not have said
anything at all. I might have overlooked it or grown numb to the evil that was going on in
I do the same thing in my own temple (heart) too. There are things I overlook. There are
pet sins that I don't mortify. There are things I can grow numb too. What about you?
As believers, praise Jesus that He has cleansed our hearts. He has washed us clean of
every sin we have done, are doing, and will do. Because Jesus cleansed our temples by
paying the debt of our sin for us on the cross, Jesus not only sits at the right hand of the
Father, but he also dwells (made a home) in our hearts.
How would you describe your zeal for the Lord? Where do you see God not getting the
glory he deserves?
What are the tables that need to be overturned in your own heart?
What are the tables that need to be overturned in the places God has placed you?