On the as yet unnamed Palm Sunday, Jesus finished the day in front of the temple. He looked around a bit, according to Mark, but since it was late, he left and went out to Bethany, which was only a mile and a half away from Jerusalem.
Here is what happens on Monday (Mark 11:12-19):
1. On the way back in town Jesus stops to get some figs from a tree
2. Fig tree has no fruit, because it is out of season, so Jesus curses the tree
3. Jesus overturns the tables of the money changers
4. Jesus stops anyone from moving through the temple courtyard with merchandise
5. Before leaving the town again, Jesus delivers one of the great lines of the Bible, “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
Both the Commentary and Borg agree that the robbers are not the money changers. They were regulated and performing a service. According to Mark, at least in the eyes of the temple establishment, the robbers referred to the temple establishment. The Commentary notes that JC Superstar notwithstanding, robbers cannot be translated thieves. The connotation is that of a violent law breaker, perhaps even a leader of revolt. Although, the best reading is probably that the slur is directed at the temple leaders–the religious Establishment.
I notice that Jesus did not take time to understand the point that the temple leaders had and work to incorporate their theology into his. He turned their tables upside down, said they weren’t doing God’s work, and if that resulted in him getting to trouble, then so be it.
I’m just saying.