Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
John chapter 2 records an event often called Jesus’ cleansing of the temple. Seeing the people actively profiteering from their presence in the temple, Jesus interfered with their business.
Every age has its demonstrations against perceived instances of unfairness. I want to observe something about how Jesus engaged in this act, which can legitimately be seen as an act of protest against those he saw as misusing the temple.
First, the people were there, with permission, but they were doing something that had not historically been considered acceptable in the temple. They were not contributing to the worship that delivered forgiveness to the people of Israel. Their business could just as well have been done down the street from the temple. Jesus’ objection was not specifically to the existence of the business but to the fact that it was being conducted in the temple, which interfered with worship.
Second, Jesus did not do anything that was actually destructive. Yes, he hit people with a whip made of cords. This was particularly non-lethal. It is very different from a modern-day protest in which someone hits someone else with a baseball bat, or a club with spikes in it, or eins shooting or stabbing others. This is more like whalloping someone with a rope. It would hurt, but not be life-threatening in any way.
Third, the animals Jesus released were large animals which would very predictably leave through the gate and then settle down in a herd not far away. They could be retrieved easily. The birds were not released.
Fourth, the money of the money-changers was thrown on the ground. It was lying there, very likely amid straw and manure, but it was undamaged. It could be collected. He didn’t take it away.
Jesus’ cleansing of the temple was intended to get the occupants of the temple out of the way of those who had come to offer sacrifices. He inconvenienced those people who would hinder the nation of Israel. But he brought no harm. He merely corrected their practices.
When we see things in our world and in the Church which need correction, may we have grace to engage with them, forcefully if needed, but without causing harm. We can interrupt what is wrong but not destroy the wrongdoers. That’s God’s final decision.
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