While John 12 helps us understand the context of the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday, it is Mark’s Gospel which outlines Jesus’ last week on earth. We call that Passion Week.
After retiring Sunday night from the Temple in Jerusalem to Bethany on the Mount of Olives (Mk 11:14), Jesus returns to the Temple on Monday morning (11:15). Along the way occurs the well-known story of Jesus being hungry and seeing a fig tree that looked like it could have fruit, but didn’t. He pronounces a curse on that tree.
Much has been written to explain this event, discussing Jesus’ attitudes or actions. Yet, Jesus never wastes an opportunity to teach us. So He will use this tree for illustration: the seemingly healthy but unfruitful tree symbolizing both Israel’s condition and the power of faith.
Following through with that symbolism, Jesus arrives at the massive 37 acre Temple compound. It is business as usual – things seem normal and okay on the surface– but underneath it is neither spiritual nor healthy.
So, for the second time in His ministry Jesus throws those engaged in religious commercialism out of the Temple (first time was at the beginning of His ministry in John 2). As God the Son, the Temple is His house and on this day he arrives “home,” doesn’t like what people are doing in His house and chases them out.
It was a powerful message to the priests – the designated servants to God’s House – who would have sanctioned this commerce (maybe even taking a cut!). Jesus was God, this was His house and He was not happy with how things were being handled. The priests must decide how they would respond – follow orders or continue “business as usual?”
This day ends with Jesus leaving the city, apparently going back to Bethany to again spend the night (11:19).