Archives: John 2:13-22

Zeal For Your House Will Consume Me

Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple is an act of premeditated rage.

In our haste to divorce ourselves from the old, punitive image of a wrathful and vengeful God, we have at times come too close to domesticating Jesus.

We picture him with perfect hair in a clean robe always speaking softly and reasonably.

If we try to think about Jesus being angry, we might remember this story, when he drives the moneychangers from the Temple.

But our mental image of Jesus in this situation is him flying off the handle, losing his temper and abruptly descending into a violent tirade.

It turns out neither scenario is true. Jesus is not the mealy-mouthed meek and mild Sunday school picture, but nor is he a two-year-old throwing a tantrum.

Jesus sees what is happening in the Temple and decides, ahead of time, to use his holy anger as a sign to the people.

We know this because of John 2:15. It says, “Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.”

“Making a whip of cords.” Jesus didn’t just show up at the Temple one day and start kicking over tables on the spur of the moment.

He made a decision to express his anger, and then went aside to make a whip of cords.

That took time. That took effort. He had to find supplies, for heaven’s sake.

How do you make a whip of cords? I don’t know, but it’s not something you toss off in ten minutes.

Jesus had a message to communicate, and he chose this dramatic and visceral action, almost like performance art, to convey it.

He loosed the reins on his passion and emotion for his people, and let his heart show.

It is at once intimidating—to think of Jesus committing premeditated violence, however justified—and deeply moving to see his vulnerability. Continue reading

Jesus’ Premeditated Rage

This is such a fascinating Gospel story.

I think the reason many of us find it intriguing is because it cuts across our customary image of Jesus.

Jesus is so gentle and loving in many of the stories about him, taking children in his arms and blessing them, washing the disciples’ feet and so forth, that we run the risk of domesticating him, making him one dimensional.

Jesus as our Good Shepherd is tender and gentle, but he is so much more than that.

Jesus was a person, a man, and he experienced the full range of complex emotions that humanity has to offer.

Jesus is so intense in this story of driving the moneychangers from the temple.  It’s almost embarrassing to think about it, especially for us extremely polite Anglicans.

The last thing we would ever think of doing is creating a shouting ruckus in church, which is essentially what Jesus does here.

He descends on the Temple like a furious storm, sweeping through with incandescent rage and leaving wreckage behind him.

The difference, of course, is that instead of a harvest of death, the storm that Jesus unleashes on the Temple is in the service of life.

Rather than the people dying, Jesus offers his own life as the price of the sin and evil in the world being destroyed.

This event of Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the Temple is described in all four gospels, which lends it an extra force of realism.

Everybody who was writing about Jesus agreed that this happened, and that it was important to remember it. Continue reading