Scripture: John 2:13-25
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!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty- six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
I had a professor in seminary who liked to say about the scenes of God’s anger in the Old Testament, “We don’t worship an angry God. We worship a God who sometimes gets a little angry.” I think those words could apply to Jesus, too. The angry Jesus of this passage is far less fun for me to write about than the sarcastic Jesus from a few verses ago. Perhaps that’s because sarcasm is a far greater part of my personality than anger. Or maybe it’s because angry people, in general, just aren’t all that fun to be around. Either way, reading about Jesus while he’s in this moment of total frustration isn’t something that brings about much comfort to me. I tend to take my cues from the Jesus in other parts of the gospels who uses wit and creativity to challenge systems of sin and oppression. This guy that’s screaming and popping a whip bothers – and even scares – me a little. Though I am sympathetic to the message, I don’t particularly like the way he speaks the words.
This scene has become the benchmark for Christians who like to talk about something called righteous anger. I don’t like this term one bit. It too often gives off the sense that the person or group acting out their frustrations are totally justified in doing so because they are the virtuous sent to drive out the impurities of others. When humans, namely Christians, use this idea as a justification for using violence to purify sin, the Christian becomes the sinner. To believe in this method of evangelization is to misread this passage. Only God can save souls. This passage isn’t a validation for our anger. Rather, it is a challenge for the church to get its act together. Those who receive Christ’s anger, here, aren’t outsiders and nonbelievers. Jesus directs his anger straight at those who share his faith. He’s frustrated at the people who misuse the name of God for their own benefit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to be the one to set Jesus off like that again.
God Almighty, be slow to anger with me and with your church. Enable me to not spread fear and anger, but compassion and joy. Amen.
Thought for the Day:
Anger and judgement aren’t ours to proclaim. But that’s alright because love and happiness are way more fun to share with others.