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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?

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