And 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.’” (Mark 11:17).
On Monday of Jesus’ final week, the Lord returned to Jerusalem only to discover (as Mark presents the story) another disappointment. Within the temple wall, the outermost court (court of the gentiles) was as close as a non-Jew could get to the temple. Any attempt to get closer than that would result in capital punishment for the offending gentile.
The temple was to be place where everyone (regardless of nationality) could come worship the God of Israel. What Jesus found however was not a place of worship, but a shopping mall where hawkers sold their wares at inflated prices. The only spot where everyone could worship was not a place conducive to worship for anyone!
In a story told by all the gospel writers, Jesus cleared the mall of its merchants – much to the disappointment of the religious leadership profiting from the transactions (who begin to lay plans in earnest to kill him).
The road to God is intended to be marked and lined with the people of God who encourage all to come to God. There is only one road. There is neither provision nor permission to pioneer alternate routes. God’s people have to be sure they are on that road, and living in such a way that will mark it brightly and invitingly for all who would seek God – a road more easily traveled with the help of every pilgrim along the way.