15-16 The cleansing of the temple, in fulfillment of Mal 3:1-3, was Jesus' next messianic act during the Passion Week after the Triumphal Entry. When he entered the temple area, the smell of the animals entered his nostrils; and the noise from the money changers' tables beat on his ears. Why were they there? For the convenience of pilgrims, the cattlemen and the money changers had set up business in the Court of the Gentiles. The animals were sold for sacrifices. It was far easier for a pilgrim coming to Jerusalem to purchase one that was guaranteed kosher than to bring an animal with him and have it inspected for meeting the kosher requirements. The Roman money the pilgrims brought to Jerusalem had to be changed into the Tyrian currency, since the annual temple tax had to be paid in that currency. Exorbitant prices were often charged for changing the currency. By overturning the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, Jesus was directly and forcefully challenging the authority of the high priest, because they were there by his authorization.
Jesus also put a stop to casual use of the temple by those who used it as a shortcut between the city and the Mount of Olives (v.16).
17 The first passage quoted by Jesus is Isa 56:7, a prediction that non-Jews who worship God would be allowed to worship in the temple. By allowing the Court of the Gentiles, the only place in the temple area where Gentiles could worship God, to become a noisy, smelly public market, the Jewish religious leaders were preventing Gentiles from exercising the spiritual privilege promised them. How could a Gentile pray amid all that noisy stench? The second quotation (from Jer 7:11) emphasizes that instead allowing the temple to be what it was meant to be, a place of prayer, they had allowed it to become a robbers' den. This is to be understood both in terms of the Jews' dishonest dealing with the pilgrims and especially in terms of using all their merchandising activities to rob the Gentiles of their rightful claim to worship Israel's God.
Jesus concern that Gentiles receive equal privileges with Jews to worship God would have been particularly meaningful for Mark's predominantly Gentile readers.
[NIV BIBLE COMMENTARY Vol 2: New Testament].
JESUS IS LORD.