This is the story of the cleansing of the Temple in Mark. I am going to address this story by including what comes right before, in Mark 11:12-14.
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Mark is always putting stories next to each other to make a point more strongly. So what does cursing a fig tree have to do with turning tables over in the Temple?
Both tell the same story. If something looks prosperous, because it boasts the trappings of success and good work, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is goodness inside for those who seek it. Usually fig trees that are leafed out have fruit. Not this one. One would expect a busy Temple courtyard to be about God’s business. Maybe not.
Corruption by Temple officials was well known, especially by the poor. They tried to bring in “perfect” animals for sacrifice, but the officials would always find fault with them and demand payment at exorbitant prices for one of their “perfect” animals instead. Plus fees, plus taxes, even for the newly purchased animal. Oh, and “change” their money into the currency of the Temple, and you guessed it, for another fee.
Mark believed that Jesus came into “the business” to teach people that what they saw paraded around as “pious religion” was nothing short of entrapment; a way to get money out of people, a way to work with the Roman authorities to keep people weak and unable to revolt. A fig tree that cannot feed you, a “God” that exploits you, well, it’s enough to make someone want to turn tables over!
Although the common folk love Jesus, the Temple authorities see a big problem looming as long as he gathered more followers. So, too, the Romans do not wish to upset the apple cart. The seeds of Jesus’ demise are sown.
Director of Music Ministries