"So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. Then He taught, saying to them, 'Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' And the scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching."
After arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus went to the temple and drove out those who bought and sold therein. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. Jesus had acted similarly three years earlier (cf. John 2:13ff). Some mistakenly believe that Jesus only cleansed the temple once during His earthly ministry, but a careful examination of the chronology of each context will show otherwise. John described a "temple cleansing" that happened very early in Jesus' ministry. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, on the other hand, each describe a "temple cleansing" that happened within the last week of Jesus' life.
Jesus would not allow any goods to be carried through the temple. The temple was never intended to function as a marketplace or as a shortcut for those traveling from one part of the city to another.
"Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves'" (cf. Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11). The temple was a place of worship, and although some legitimate business pertaining to exchanging currency and selling sacrificial animals could have been properly done nearby, there was no reason to conduct it in the temple itself! This is especially true since the business men were evidently behaving like thieves (i.e., ripping the people off with outrageous currency exchange fees and exorbitant prices for animals). Undoubtedly there was much grumbling and quarreling (as all thieves do when they divide the booty in their dens).
"And the scribes and the chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching" (Mark 11:18). The religious leaders are still seeking to destroy Jesus, though they have no moral or legal grounds for such. They are too afraid to arrest Him or take any violent measures publicly because of His influence with the people. However, their fear does not hinder them from continuing to attack Jesus verbally with treacherous questions. They hope to make a fool of Jesus and cause Him to lose His large following, thereby enabling them to put Him to death with little resistance.
"When evening had come, He went out of the city" (Mark 11:19).