Tuesday, May 03, 2011

John 2:13-17

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 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, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The cleansing of the Temple is an important episode for several reasons.

First, it demonstrates how corrupt mere ritual can become. No doubt under the High Priests commission, traders had entered the court of the Gentiles, which should have been for the evangelizing of the Gentiles, and instead had turned into a place of profiteering. Animals for sacrifice were available at the Mount of Olives, but they could be rejected by the Temple authorities and preference given for animals purchased in the Temple Courts. Moneychangers could engage in similar unscrupulous dealings, since they had the monopoly of Temple coinage.

Second, this is the only occasion when Jesus resorted to violence. We have a picture of Jesus as a simpering milksop dressed in a nightdress; but this is a false picture. One day he will be coming to judge and those who have not believed in him cannot expect to be treated kindly. The masculine gender of the word 'all' suggests that the whip was for people as well as for animals.

Third, there is the strong hint here that the whole process of animal sacrifice is coming to an end. If I am right in equating this episode with the one described in the Synoptics, then it is chronologically the last Passover before Jesus' appearance as the paschal lamb. The animals are driven away because Jesus replaces them.

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