i’ve always loved the biblical story of jesus cleansing the temple when he comes to jerusalem for passover. all of the gospels talk about this event, though it occurs at different points in each of the four narratives. my favorite version is from the gospel of john, chapter two, verses 13-16:
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 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. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”
why do i love this story so darn much? because in my mind it shows jesus as being truly human. so often in the bible he is portrayed as being more divine than human, and so that’s how most people tend to see him: as a purely divine being. now i have my own questions and struggles with the divinity of jesus, as do many major theologians, and so i tend to really appreciate these brief glimpses into such raw humanity from jesus.
jesus goes to walk into the temple in jerusalem during passover, a time when the city would have been filled with hundreds of thousands of jews for the holiday, only to find that people in the city are scamming the rest of the population. he sees that people have set up a marketplace of sorts to sell sacrifices and other trinkets to people on their way to worship, which offends jesus greatly. this was revered ground, during a holy holiday, and these people were loitering around trying to capitalize on people’s faith and make a quick buck. and so jesus rages. he apparently makes a whip and dumps out their money and overturns their tables full of goods.
the very idea of this scene sounds amazing to me. a man offended and appalled takes it into his own hands to start a small revolution outside of the temple in the capitol city. to be honest, when i try to imagine this whole chain of events i see jesus twirling and whipping things into shape. he’s smashing pots and vases, and animals are running around like crazy trying to get out of the range of jesus’ whip. pretty soon he storms over to where the people are, rips the money out of their hands and dumps it all over the ground. he then goes on to start flipping tables and smashing even more things, hair blowing and twisting violently around his enraged face as he yells out in anger. everyone else in the temple stands and watches in shock. old jewish women cover their faces with their hands, scandalized by what this younger man is doing right outside the temple. people who were about to buy animals from the moneychangers for sacrifices are now in a panic, for what will they sacrifice for passover now that most of the animals have run away? the sellers are all astounded and shocked and pretty pissed, but they don’t really want to get in the way of a guy with a huge whip who has just destroyed their entire shop area; they think he seems kind of unbalanced and they’re not sure what he will do next.
sounds like it would have been one heck of a scene to watch from afar eh? i know that i would have loved to. this idea of jesus raging and having such a temper is a comfort to me when i find myself becoming agitated. jesus was such a peaceful man, and yet he knew when something was important enough to break out of his normal pattern of behavior and raise hell to change it. i think that it’s a fantastic lesson for all of us to remember.
so often people let the smallest and most unimportant things bother them to where they cannot focus on anything else. a bad grade can ruin a star students’ whole day. an offhand comment from an acquaintance can really get under your skin. somebody changing their planes last minute may really annoy you. things aren’t always going to go our way, it’s just a fact of life.
what is more important to learn to decipher, however, is when something is worth fighting for. jesus felt that capitalists taking advantage of people and turning something holy into something for profit was worth raging and changing. what will you find important enough to rage about?