So they came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began driving out those who bought and sold in the temple He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to use the temple court as a thoroughfare for carrying goods. Then he began to teach them, and said, 'Does not Scripture say, "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations"? But you have made it a robbers' cave.' The chief priests and the doctors of the law heard of this and sought some means of making away with him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came he went out of the city. Mark 11:15-19
A rabbi told me that at the time of Jesus, Judaism had been corrupted. We get a window into that corrupted religion in these gospel verses. Jesus is angry. The temple is noisy, smelly and dirty with all these animals being sold for sacrifices. Who can pray? And since Jews couldn't use Roman coins, which bore Caesar's image, the money had to be exchanged for temple money. And we all know that when one currency is exchanged for another, someone is making money off the deal, leaving someone else cheated. Yes, Jesus is angry.
But there's still more to it. Listen to what God has to say through the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah about the way religion can go.
Hear what Yahweh says, you rulers of Sodom;
listen to what our God teaches, you people of Gomorrah.
'What are your endless sacrifices to me?' says Yahweh.
'I am sick of burnt offerings of rams,
and the fat of calves.
I take no pleasure in the blood
of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come and present yourselves before me,
who has asked you to trample through my courts?
Bring no more futile cereal offerings,
the smoke from them fills me with disgust.
New Moons, Sabbaths, assemblies - I cannot endure solemnity
combined with guilt.
Your New Moons and your meetings I utterly detest;
to me they are a burden I am tired of bearing.
When you stretch out your hands I turn my eyes away.
You many multiply your prayers, I shall not be listening.
Your hands are covered in blood,wash, make yourselves clean.
take your wrong-doing out of my sight.
Cease doing evil. Learn to do good,
search for justice, discipline the violent,
be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.'
This same rabbi told me that the temple was effectively a slaughter house. I like the photo up-top here, probably taken from a Jesus movie, because the sheep have been set free. I personally think by this action, Jesus evolves religion, putting an end to all the killing of animals: birds, sheep, lambs, goats and calves.
In the Isaiah prophecy God is repulsed by all the temple blood-letting and burning, especially when offered by a people of unclean heart, guilty of violence, injustice, cruelty and indifference to the weak ones. The ancient priests were also paid to operate in the service of the Roman occupiers. It's a nasty scene and God won't have it.
But of course, every religion needs to take regular stock of itself in this regard, religion so prone to commercialization, always selling something, raffling off something, even pricey high-end items - ironically, all in the name of the one who said, "Own nothing."
We might read again the Isaiah verses above. They essentially say: You don't sing Sunday hymns while you militarize the planet. You don't burn incense and leave children without adequate health care. You don't light gilded candle sticks while the damaged war vetereans are left untended. We shouldn't doubt it: this Gospel is about us too.