“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So 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. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:13-16)
For many years, this passage confused me. I thought Jesus preached peace, but here he is flipping tables and fashioning his own whip. He seems more like Indiana Jones than the Jesus I learned about in Sunday School. The image of Jesus throwing a tantrum in the temple is so jarring and powerful because it is an exception to his otherwise gentle and peaceful nature.
In this story, Jesus reminds me of the mother of a young toddler. Most of the time, the mother is sweet, gentle, and tender-hearted towards her child. One day, however, the child reaches to turn the knob of the stove, igniting the flame. The mother slaps the child’s hand away to teach him that he should never touch the stove, because it could seriously hurt him. The mother doesn’t usually go about slapping her child, but when the consequences of a situation are severe, serious actions must be taken. Even though the mother may have hurt or scared her young child, she did it in the child’s best interest. Sometimes a slap to the hand is much more loving than an “it’s okay, sweetheart.”
At first glance, Jesus’ wrath in the temple may seem out of character, but really, it’s just a different manifestation of his character than we are used to seeing. At the core of Jesus’ character is a passion for the Church, a cause he would eventually die for. When he sees people taking advantage of the Church, he is understandably angry and disturbed. He takes a slap to the hand approach here because of the severe consequences of the situation. Jesus is no less loving than before; his love is just shown in a different way.
Confrontation makes me uneasy, but sometimes it is necessary. I’m not saying you have to make your own whip like Jesus did, but be willing to engage in uncomfortable discussions to help discipline a brother or sister out of love. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider how we may SPUR one another on toward love and good deeds.” A spur is a small spike on the heel of a horse rider’s boot used to direct the horse. Like the slap on the hand, the spur may temporarily sting, but it serves a purpose. We have a responsibility to spur our brothers and sisters on toward following Jesus a little closer each and every day.
“We’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming” –Bob Goff, Everybody Always