Notes I’ve made in my Bible, from John 2:13-25:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.
A little background: Passover was an annual pilgrimage to celebrate the ancient story of Israel’s rescue from cruel slavery in Egypt. As millions gathered in Jerusalem, Jews remembered when God spared their ancestors as the angel of death, “passed over” homes marked by the blood of a sacrificed lamb.
Thousands traveled long distances. Upon arrival, a temple tax had to be paid (Exodus 30:13) but foreign money was not accepted. Visitors were required to use Jewish coins and an exchange rate would be charged.
Also, a sacrifice had to be offered but it was easier to buy your unblemished animal in Jerusalem. At one time, vendors set up their animal stalls in the Kidron Valley but over time, they began to set up shop closer and closer to the temple until the time came when they were allowed to set up their stalls in the temple courts. Any animal brought for sacrifice would have to be approved by judges – judges who were also the vendors. And you can probably guess how that went!
Can you imagine the sight and smells? And the lack of any sense of holiness? Not only had God’s house of worship been transformed into a place of greedy business activity, it took on the aroma of a stable. And this was all taking place in the outer courts of the temple, the only place onsight where Gentile believers were allowed to hear God’s Word, pray and worship.
So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle, He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves, He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Jesus displays God’s divine and righteous anger.
Did you notice that Jesus made the whip? Upon His arrival, He obviously saw the business activities, but on a deeper level, He would have witnessed the exploitation of God’s people by the greedy and He would have observed the marginalized being overlooked and ignored by the arrogant. He became fiercely angry. The Lamb is also the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5-6)!
Jesus didn’t immediately respond by shouting and pushing over tables. He began by making a whip. I wonder how long it took to braid cords into a whip? I can imagine Him using that time to observe and pray to His Father. Then He responded.
It appears to me that we react with emotions controlling us yet we have the ability to respond with our mind involved. I am often guilty of reacting quickly. Consequently that has led to regrets. Yet, when I take the time to pray and observe before acting, I’m more confident about my actions. I want to respond to my initial reaction like Jesus. Eyes focused on needs of others. Prayerful. Courageous. And taking decisive action where I see injustice.
Then the Jews demanded of Him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” The Jews replied, “It has taken 46 years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple He had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had spoken.
Jesus’ words carried more power than the whip He made. Why? His words were lined up with His Father’s will. He spoke truth and people knew it. They knew He was right. No one argued or defended their actions. Instead they asked about His authority.
Some of the stones used in constructing the temple weighed as much as 70 tons. Rebuild in 3 days? Ridiculous! However, Jesus wouldn’t “perform” as they suggested. He revealed the ultimate sign which would be His death and resurrection. He wasn’t talking about the temple made of stone. He was talking about Himself.
Now while He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name. But Jesus would not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.
Believing in Jesus name doesn’t indicate genuine faith. Jesus knows the difference. He knows the heart.
This story can make me squirm. It demands that I ask myself, “If Jesus walked into our churches today, would He express anger at what He sees going on in His house of worship?” I don’t really think Jesus would be angry at the existence of bookstores and cafes but can He find exploitation and arrogance?
I also must ask, “Is today’s church solely focused on what matters to God? Does the church empower believers to change the world with their love for God by reaching out to the least, the last and the lost?”
And these questions always lead to me applying the same questions personally. How am I responding to the gospel? Am I a champion for God’s causes? Am I responding with my heart lined up with God’s? Do I have the courage to use my voice?
Questions to ponder:
Am I angry about the same things that anger God? Do I pick and choose issues I am willing to stick my neck out to fight? Am I on the front line of battle against injustice? If not, what holds me back?
How can I balance righteous anger and grace?
How can I be a positive force within the church I attend? I realize the church isn’t perfect: it is filled with sinners…but those sinners are there because they seek righteousness. How can I encourage both the timid and the battle weary?