Skip to main content

Jesus went SJW at the Temple - John 2:13-17

Last time we checked in, Jesus had just finished serving libations at a wedding party, and then he went on a little retreat with the "fam" in Capernaum.

Now the Passover was coming up and folks were starting to gather in Jerusalem.  This was a big deal, people would come to the temple from all over the known world.  The temple was the only place that you could do a kosher sacrifice, and the Jewish faith required certain sacrifices in preparation for the Passover.  Every practicing Jew had to make the trip to Jerusalem for Passover.  Jesus followed this tradition, making the trip from Capernaum to Jerusalem.

Just within the temple there was a  great courtyard called the court of the gentiles, or the outer court.  This area was within the gates of the temple and was considered holy, but you did not need to be Jewish to enter.  This was the only place that a gentile could worship.  There were signs posted to warn against going further.  Any gentile that went beyond the court of the gentiles was subject to death.  It was such an important tradition that Rome supported the rule and allowed them to put to death any gentile that entered, even Roman citizens.

In preparation for the Passover this area was often used as a place to sell animals for the sacrifice. Locals would not buy there because the prices were akin to buying while within the park limits of Disney, but it was nearly impossible to bring a sacrifice with you when you were traveling from great distances.  The local merchants took advantage of this and sold their animals for ridiculous prices.  Money exchange merchants were also present.  They charged a hefty price to trade for local currency, but the merchants would only accept the local currency.  There was a lot of money to be made here.

Jesus walked in and took notice of what was happening and he did not like it.  He knew that people were being taken advantage of, and in a place that was made for worship.  Some people assume he objected to any sort of selling within the temple, but since he was in the temple on other occasions, it is more likely that he objected to the materialistic and greedy pursuits of this particular occasion.

Either way, he was consumed with a sense of justice and he made a whip out of some cords he found laying around.  The cords were probably near the cattle, used to lead them to slaughter. What is happening here is premeditated.  Jesus did not just start stiring up trouble.  He maintains some level of calm while he makes a whip by hand.

Once he had the whip in hand he used it to drive out the sheep and cattle.  It is worth noting that the Greek is clear here, the whip was used on the sheep and cattle, not the people.  Jesus is certainly engaged in social justice work here, but this is not in support of violent resistance.  Jesus made a show of things, but he did not hurt people.  Those that traded cattle and sheep would have been driven out because they were chasing after their livestock.  The whip was a standard and effective tool for driving cattle and sheep

He turned over the money tables and scattered their coins.  As money changers they had the difficult task of sorting through various currencies that were now scattered and mixed.  Finally he turned his attention to those that handled the doves.  Doves were used as sacrifices for those with little money.  These merchants were probably bringing in the least amount of profit.  He told them to get out of the temple.  Given his previous actions I bet he had their attention.  He instructed them all to stop making his Father's house a marketplace.

His disciples were reminded of a Psalm written by King David.  Psalm 69 is a song of deep mourning, and worth a read, but too deep for this little post.

I like this pericope, it shows a powerful, passionate man reacting to the injustices of the world.  It shows us that Jesus was not just a pacifist.  He was not violent, but he was not passive either.  I do worry that this story is used to justify violence, but a deeper look into the Greek does not support it.  Jesus did not hurt anyone in this story.  I bet he had their attention, but they all left unharmed.

How do we apply this story to our own lives?  Well, I am personally struck with a conviction that I find that I lack the passion that Christ showed here.  I am a calm person, maybe overly calm.  I am far more likely to take a passive approach to most injustices.  I support causes and I offer my services...but would I turn over tables and make scene?  Not likely  I hope that I can learn to let my passion for justice, what the Bible calls "zeal", come out more often.  How about you?

Do you like these commentaries?  Do you want to see more of them?  I love doing them, but I need your help.  I need to cover the cost of keeping the website up to keep them coming.  If you can help please deposit a little money on my Paypal account at

Thank you!


Popular posts from this blog

Divine | Shame | Humans

Shame is often the only thing between our creator and us. Our reading this week is from Job 14:5-6: A person’s days are determined;      you have decreed the number of his months      and have set limits he cannot exceed. So look away from him and let him alone,      till he has put in his time like a hired laborer. Job is struggling with shame and judgement.  He is wondering why God is spending time paying attention to him, a tiny speck in the great universe, a blink of an eye in all eternity.  Why would God waste time casting a glance at us, let alone fostering us, raising us, and disciplining us?  He cries out "Why won't God just let us be, to live out our miserable existence?" A friend shared a post with me on Facebook this week.  It was a video of her dog who had stolen her donut.  The dog had been under the bed for two hours before she started the video.  The video begins with a clear view of the dog and the uneaten donut under the bed.  The dog casts glances from s

Justice & Privilege

The narrative lectionary reading for this week begins a 5 week series on the book of Job.  We focus on Job 1:1-12.  This first section sets the background for the parable.  It is important to note that this is clearly a parable, not a historical text.  This means we must look beyond the described events and towards a deeper meaning within the text.   The story goes like this: ___ There was once a man who thought he was good, an upright citizen, a religiously devout man.  He made good choices and avoided all forms of evil.  He was so pious that he made sacrifices in the name of his family members in case they had unknowingly sinned.  He had great wealth and privilege, and so this was evidence of his goodness.   God was so pleased with this great man, named Job, that he bragged about him to the accuser.  The accuser objected "Of course Job is good, you have provided him with wealth, power, and protection. He would curse you if he was not so privileged."  At this, God takes the

Fool for Christ

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 2 Corinthians 5.  Verse 13 stood out to me. If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. - 2 Corinthians 5:13a (NLT) John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard churches did a famous sermon called "I am a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?".  Reading this week's text reminded me of this wonderful sermon.  Wimber's sermon reminds us that, as christians, we are called to something truly radical.  The christian walk is strange and counter cultural.  Jesus once explained this to his disciples in John 15 "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. You don't belong to this world, I have chosen you out of it.  That is why the world hates you."   Peter, in a letter to the church, later referred to all of us as strangers just passing through this world.   Do you feel like a stranger?  Do you feel like the world hates you?  Are you a fool for Christ? Here is the thing, you are going t