Every Thought Captive

The Wrath of The Lamb

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.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.

Mark 11:15-18

Just as the mood surrounding Jesus had reached a fever pitch, he entered Jerusalem and turned the world upside down. The very place made for God to dwell with His people, the architectural symbol of the way the world was made to be, the ancient wonder that pointed to the way the world will be, the fountainhead for God’s blessings to flow as far as the curse is found: Jesus denounced as a den of robbers. What is going on?

The key word here is lēstēs—robbers, plunderers, brigands. Years prior, the prophet Jeremiah warned Israel about believing that the temple placed the people on the ‘right side of history’—“This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord”—without pursuing the purpose for which it existed (Jeremiah 7:4). The house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7) had become a religiously sanctioned wall of separation between the (Jews) and the outsiders (gentiles and the poor), where the former were puffed up and the later swindled. “Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:11). God visited the temple in person and saw exploitation in His own name. Jesus’ response was a fiery “No!” to this evil.

It is often assumed that God’s love is somehow in conflict with His wrath. How can a good and loving God also be fiercely angry? It took first-hand experience with the devastating cruelty of war in the former Yugoslavia for the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf to see the good news of God’s wrath. He says, “Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.” Jesus’ anger in the temple is the force of God’s love in the face of evil.

The poet Steve Turner says, “History repeats itself. / Has to. / No-one listens.” The religious leaders did not listen to Jesus’ severe mercy and sought a way to destroy Him. Not long after, He was nailed to a cross, died, and was buried. Later history tells us that Roman forces marched into Jerusalem in AD 70 and destroyed the Jewish temple. History repeats itself. Has to. And yet, the difference between the two destructions makes all the difference. Jesus conquered death and rose bodily from the grave. He is the true king of the whole world, the true temple builder, the true light of that glorious dawn radiating in the eastern sky. His light illuminates the rubble of history wrecked by sin with the hope that evil will not win, the dead in Christ will rise to new life in a renewed world, and all shall be well forever and ever. By grace, some do listen and say, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

About the Author

Photograph of Brett Bradshaw

Brett Bradshaw

Director of Christian Formation

Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Brett Bradshaw serves as the Director of Christian Formation at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas. Andrea is his wife whom he delights to love. Ellie, Emery, and Haven are his precious daughters, the little ones who are a daily glimpse of the Kingdom of God.