In John 2:15 we read that Jesus made a whip of cords , drove out those who were selling sacrificial animals and those who were exchanging secular coins for Temple coins and that He overturned their tables. Secular coins were not allowed to be used to pay their Temple tax, which was required to be paid during the three times a year (the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles) all males over 19 were instructed to go to Jerusalem.
I’ve always heard this explained as Jesus’s “righteous anger” and I can understand that but it is noteworthy that this is a different look of Jesus from the “gentle” Jesus that is so often pictured. And I can understand His anger because here we have a practise being conducted in the same vicinity of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, that is totally opposed to the character of God. It’s also interesting to note that it seems that Jesus did this twice, here at the beginning of His ministry in John 2 and as noted in Matthew 21:12-13, at the conclusion of Jesus’ ministry, so this was not a one time event.
What we are talking about is the commercialism that was associated within the proximity of the House of God by the Jews. These commercial endeavours would have taken place in the outer Court of the Gentiles in the Temple, which anyone could enter.
I don’t think it was so much about the location where the sacrificial animals were purchased and money exchanging took place that angered Jesus but rather how those who did provide these services, took advantage of the location of these necessities and charged exorbitant markup for doing so. In fact, in the latter cleansing of the Temple, as recorded in Matthew 21:13 it says: “Jesus said to them,”It is written, My house shall be called a House of Prayer; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”
I don’t know about you but I am mindful of how “some” Christian ministries replicate these same practices today by using unscrupulous sales of various merchandise. But I digress.
It’s also interesting to note that here, right at the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry, when Jesus was challenged on what authority He had or signs He could show, to do these things, Jesus responded with the statement; “Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19). So right at the very onset of His ministry, Jesus was indicating the conclusion of His ministry. And as stated in John 2:22, this statement that Jesus made here , among others, was remembered by the disciples of Jesus, after His resurrection.
It just makes me mindful that Jesus was acutely aware of what lay ahead for Him and yet He never wavered, even to the point of stating His own will but then putting His own will aside, to fulfill the will of our Father, just prior to His arrest. For you and for me. How real is that?
Then in Chapter 3 we have Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, coming to speak with Jesus in the evening. Notice that Jesus did not turn him away, in spite of all the harsh criticism that Jesus had to say about the Pharisees. There was no slamming of a door, no refusal to associate or converse, voiced by Jesus. If someone was willing to honestly converse with Jesus, He left the door open. Same thing with the Samaritan woman at the well. A Samaritan woman, someone who had got a lot of things very wrong.
Ever notice how Jesus used the Samaritan’s history to illustrate how someone who had made serious mistakes could still be an example of God’s righteousness? Check out Luke 10:25-37 to see how Jesus used a Priest, a Levite and a Samaritan to illustrate what a good neighbour was. I don’t know about you but when I see the example Jesus deliberately gives us, it makes me realize that Jesus did this for a reason, a reason that He wants me to comprehend.
So what is the reasoning that Jesus wants us to comprehend? This is what I see and you can correct me if you think that I am wrong.
There would appear, to me, to be a big difference between someone who rejects Jesus and someone who Jesus rejects. I find it sad that we don’t employ the same mentality that Jesus did, with those we disagree with and those who disagree with us. If someone else closes the door, in other words, they no longer wish to have any further dialogue with us, that is their decision and we can justifiably then shake the dust off of our feet but the lesson that I see, is that if they haven’t made that decision, if they are still willing to have civil discourse, then it shouldn’t be us that closes that door. And should they choose to close the door on us, there is nothing stopping us from holding that individual up in earnest prayer and asking God to bless them.
A key word here would be “civil” discourse. Discussing the pros and cons of an issue is one thing, uttering demeaning remarks about an opposing individual is another. Words should carefully be chosen and carefully received, at both ends. Stating that someone “may” be complicit is not the same as stating they “are” complicit and when the “someone” is a collective body, such as all participants in politics, which would include all parties, as an example, the inference is that “all” participants may be subject to the complicity, not just those who may take offence at possibility being identified as such.
Jesus never changed his criticism about the Pharisees shortfalls nor did He change his thoughts on the mistakes that the Samaritans had made, but He did not allow those shortfalls or mistakes to interfere with ministering to the individual. When we lose sight of that, when we disregard or reject the individual because of the errors of the collective body we disagree with, I think we error. Did Jesus write off all of the Pharisees? No He did not.
I admit, this is not a easy road to travel. A case in point is a lengthy discussion I had with a Christian brother a couple of weeks ago. He chose to break any communication with me, his decision, not mine. Fortunately this doesn’t happen very often but it does sometimes happen. That decision of his is between him and God. And yes, I have lifted him up in prayer, a number of times.
I know we are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to separate ourselves from darkness. I know most of the individual verses to quote that validate that perspective, but I am also looking at the overall context of what Jesus showed and said to us, not just the individual verses that validate slamming doors. Reject a collective body that is in serious error, no doubt, that is what we are asked to do. Reject all of the individuals within that collective body that is in error? No, not unless the individual to whom you are speaking to closes that door or demonstrates that they are unable to discuss issues without making personal insults.
Anyway, that’s what I see. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
More to follow in the Gospel of John.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!