By R. Herbert
Intro by P Shields/Light on the Rock: This blog by R. Herbert is thoughtful. Besides the excellent main point it makes, it also makes the implied point that we should be more careful in our reading of scripture. There is so much more going on in the scriptures than we often see at first glance. I’ve never heard or read anyone else make the point he makes in this blog.
All the Gospels tell the story of Jesus casting the money changers and animal sellers from the temple. It’s a powerful story. When He found people keeping animals in the temple and making profit in various ways He overturned the tables of those who changed the common Greek and Roman money for Jewish coins (which were acceptable for temple offerings) and used a whip to drive out the animals and birds being sold there (for sacrifices), saying: “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:16).
The picture painted in the Gospels is clearly one of Jesus displaying righteous anger at the way in which the temple was being polluted and commercially used, and at least one modern portrayal of the story depicts Jesus as seeing the selling and essentially flying into a sudden and furious rage. It may be easy to imagine it that way, but the Gospels actually show that nothing could be further from the truth.
One of the Messiah’s purposes in living out a human life was to provide a role model for us. How Jesus dealt with this difficult situation shows us how we should act under the same circumstances - a situation in which it would be all too natural to become instantly angry and to begin to lash out to act on that anger. So how did the Son of God deal with this provocation to “righteous anger”? We find the answer in the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s account of the cleansing of the temple is particularly interesting in that it gives us extra information which shows that Jesus certainly did not just act with natural, impulsive anger, but with a controlled anger based on calm prior thought.
*Read more to see how Jesus really dealt with this anger arousing situation ….
Alone of the Gospels, Mark adds a fascinating detail to the temple cleansing narrative. After his humble but triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Mark tells us that “Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve” (Mark 11:11). Then Mark continues, “The next day … On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there” (Mark 11:12-15). It is clear from Mark’s addition that Jesus must have already seen the sellers and money changers in the temple courts, but He chose to return to Bethany for the night – doubtless thinking about what he had seen – before returning the following day to cleanse the temple.
Jesus’ driving out of the animals and the money changers and salesmen was clearly the opposite of hasty, impulsive anger, and John’s Gospel adds yet a further detail that also shows this. “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…” (John 2:14-15). The Greek indicates that the “whip” used by Jesus was made from the rushes used as the bedding for the animals and also indicates that he “plaited” the whip – combining multiple rushes into a serviceable whip – something that would have taken some time.
The point here is that once again we see that unlike the commonly understood (and Hollywood strengthened) picture of Jesus seeing the money changers and instantly driving them out in great anger, He actually took time to think and doubtless pray about the situation -- and even took the time, when he did return to the temple, to plait or weave the whip he used. So Christ’s behavior in this circumstance was the opposite of rushing to anger and provides a clear lesson for us. Even in the most justifiable instances of provocation, we need to think and pray about how we will respond. The apostle James stresses this: “…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20). Like Jesus, rather than rushing to anger, we too need to take the time to figuratively plait the rushes.