“He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.”
Monday, 8 March 2021
This week I would like to reflect in a variety of ways on Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem.
It is one of the key points in Jesus’ life, so key it seems in the memory of the early Christian disciples, that it occurs in every one of the Gospels that we have in the New Testament. Though the Gospel of John places it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Mark, Luke and Matthew (which were earlier in terms of their composition) place it at the end, between the entry into Jerusalem and the Passion. The majority of commentators, including myself, believe that Mark, Matthew and Luke are probably more historically accurate.
The essence of the story is simple: Jesus sees the traders and money-changers in the temple and drives them out because he says that the temple has become a market and a den of thieves. In doing this, he sets himself against the temple authorities and their backers, the temple priesthood, the puppet monarchy and ultimately the Romans.
It is an act of at very least spiritual protest. To the Romans it is a sign of revolt.
For Mark, Matthew and Luke, this event seems to seal Jesus’ fate: he is now a marked man. By putting it at the beginning, John declares to us, the readers, that Jesus was an outsider from the start.
Ask yourself: if I were sitting there in the temple when Jesus literally turned the tables on the establishment, what would I really feel?
Put aside your religious assumptions, whatever they are.
Having done that, ask yourself: why do I feel like that?