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. Verse 15 (NIV)
Growing up I went to Sunday School and Catechism Classes regularly. As a bit of a rough and tumble kid, I used to think that Jesus was kind of on the wimpy side of the manly scale. Love, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy were the words that were associated with Jesu and his ministry. So, as I remembered the story of Jesus clearing the temple courts, it was a bit confusing to me. In this story about Jesus clearing the temple courts, we have a picture in which Jesus is upset and seems to be angry. Does this fit with the way you normally think of him?
Vendors are defiling the temple area during the Passover festival, and that is a problem for a couple of reasons. For one thing, they are selling animals in a space where people are supposed to be able to pray. Another concern is price gouging. Animal sacrifices are required for the festival, and it was difficult for travellers to bring animals a long distance. So, the merchants are maximising profits by charging the travellers high prices for their animals.
All of this makes Jesus rightly upset. But this is not without proper reason, and it does not mean he is out of control. Rather, Jesus is purifying a holy space and protecting people from exploitation. He is taking on something wrong and setting it right. This is what we call righteous indignation – anger due to unrighteous behaviour.
As we seek to be followers of Jesus, we are called to put God first in our lives and to seek our neighbors’ well-being. But because we continue to struggle against sin, we still need to be corrected and even rebuked at times. In those moments Jesus may need to get our attention, or even speak a hard word to us, to shake us out of focusing on ourselves in order make us become more like him.
Love, kindness, forgiveness, and mercy sometimes looks different than we imagine. All those things are also wrapped in Jesus’ righteous indignation and it is for our own good, making things that are wrong in our life – right in our life.
Lord, show me where I have sinned, and give me the courage to honor you and do what’s right. Amen.