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
Jesus quotes Isaiah directly, and then he borrows a phrase, unattributed, from Jeremiah. It comes from this passage:
“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 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. Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. And now, because you have done all these things, declares the LORD, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.”
Without the context from Jeremiah, I think it is easy to read the first passage as Jesus rebuking them for just one wrong thing: they shouldn’t have been selling in the temple or something of the sort. But when Jeremiah tells the Jews of his day that they have made God’s house into a den of robbers, the indictment is far deeper than that. It goes right to the bottom of their character: they have been treating God’s house as a sanctuary from the consequences of their misdeeds. Moreover, it is the kind of accusation that is grounds for God cutting off his people.
So when Jesus uses that phrase to rebuke the Jews, it is a loaded phrase. The last time it was used, what followed was the destruction of the temple, the razing of Jerusalem, and the slaughter of the people. If they once again merited the accusation, then they would also once again merit its accompanying punishment. Jesus is warning them that it is coming.
Unsurprisingly, just as the Jews of Jeremiah’s day turned on Jeremiah in anger for prophesying their doom, the Jews of Jesus day did the same. They understood what he was saying and they did not like it.