Cleansing of the Temple
Jesus made a powerful statement in the Temple action. Israel generally regarded the Temple’s ruler the true Davidic king. This Temple action was a claim to such royal status by Jesus.
Also, in this Temple action, Jesus enacts a symbol. This symbol said that the present system is corrupt. The Temple had become the focal point of the hope of Jewish national liberation. It had become, in Jesus’ day, the symbol of nationalist violence. It stood as a guarantee that God would act for Israel and defend her against her enemies.
All four gospel writers include this event in their writings. And Mark ‘sandwiched” the Temple action between the cursing of the fig tree and the discovery of its having withered up. He clearly intended his readers to get the point that what Jesus is doing in the Temple is related to what he is doing to the fig tree. He came seeking fruit, and finding none, he is announcing the Temple’s doom.
Jesus’ actions of overturning tables and the cursing of the fig tree were prophetic symbols indicating both the arrival of the Kingdom and the doom of the city and Temple that refused that kingdom. This event also clearly shows the transfer of significance from the Temple to the body of Christ. It is the presence of the living, risen Christ which makes the whole world into the Temple of God.
Jesus did not reject the notion of a chosen nation and a holy place. The whole point is that he embraced them; that he discerned, and tried to communicate, what that chosenness actually meant; and that, discovering the nation as a whole deaf and blind to this plea, he determined to go, himself, to the holy place and there to do what the chosen people ought to have done. He would act on behalf of, and in the place of, the Israel that was failing to be what she was called to be. He would himself be the light of the world. He would be the salt of the earth. He would be set on a hill, unable to be hidden.