Cleansing the Temple in Peace

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Yesterday during worship, I talked about HOW Jesus came into Jerusalem from Matthew 21. Here is the passage: Matthew 21: 1-17

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you,humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”10 When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.”

12 Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard[d] the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry 16 and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself’?” 17 He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

It is very interesting to me that we talk about how Jesus came into Jerusalem – on a donkey – a sign of peace, humility. A sign that this king was NOT going into battle.

And then, all of a sudden, Jesus is angry and even violent, overturning tables at the temple and driving out the money changers. Most every image of this story depicts Jesus even raising a whip towards some of the money changers! Then, as the text progresses, he’s in the temple welcoming those who would not have been allowed in the temple, perhaps because they could not afford an appropriate sacrifice or that they did not meet the purity requirements. Jesus healed them showing compassion and love.

What? As I read about Jesus and his proclivity for peace, I cannot hold to this sudden outburst of violence. Was Jesus angry? Yes, probably. There were awful things happening in the temple mostly revolving around discrimination of some kind or another. But did Jesus resort to violence? I just cannot believe that, especially with what I know comes during the rest of the week.

Jesus is betrayed, arrested, flogged, wore a crown of thorns, paraded through the same town in shame, and hung on a cross. During this entire time he never resorted to violence. Instead he spoke truth in calmness, he showed love to those around him, he forgave those who were betrayers and torturers.

So I wonder if when Jesus rode up on that donkey to the temple, if when he went inside the courtyard and saw what I’m sure he had seen many times before, he knew that things must change. But with his calm authority, he walked up to a bird cage and let out the doves. Then as that owner ran over, he then turned over his table, going from table to table, loosing animals and causing chaos. Then, he calmly calls the people who had been bartering for one of the sacrificial animals, those who were standing on the margins because they had been told they were pure enough, those who wanted to be allowed into the temple so badly but had been shut out. He calls to them, allowing them to follow him into the places where they were not allowed, and heals them, prays with them, and loves them unconditionally.

Just as Jesus’ entering Jerusalem was a spectacle, so was this act, but not because of violence. Jesus’ spectacle was one of peace and non-violent protest. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t angry, but I wonder what we could learn from this story that would shape how we as Christ followers would handle anger.

Today, we want a Jesus who has a little grit, who gets angry and lets people know it, because that Jesus is more like us. The Jesus of peace and non-violence is so much harder for us to wrap our minds around. We want a Jesus who not only stands up to people, but one who says who is in and who is out. The Jesus of inclusion and non-discrimination is much harder for us to grasp.

The more I read the stories of Jesus as portrayed in scripture, the more I understand the spectacle that is Jesus – a spectacle like we rarely see, or when we do we dismiss it – non-violent anger, peaceful protests, truth spoken in love. The more I get to know Jesus, the more I want to be like him.

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About preachermom

a passionate woman of God who believes in living the truth; in being Christ in the world; and in inspiring others.
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