The Jewish Passover was near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple complex He found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and [He also found] the money changers sitting there. After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!” And His disciples remembered that it is written: Zeal for Your house will consume Me. So the Jews replied to Him, “What sign [of authority] will You show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered, “Destroy this sanctuary, and I will raise it up in three days.” Therefore the Jews said, “This sanctuary took years to build, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking about the sanctuary of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this. And they believed the Scripture and the statement Jesus had made. (John 2:13-22 HCSB)
To begin with, I find it strange that this is the only account that anyone can find to make the case against the non-violent (Pacifist) Jesus. It seems to me that if Jesus was a fighter, you would see more of this side of Him in the Scriptures. So why do we tend to latch on to these sorts of passages? Even more, why do we feel the need to fight non-violence as a viable response?
To begin to answer these questions, we must lay a contextual foundation for this story.
What Set Jsus Off
Jesus went to the temple at the time of Passover. Passover is a major Jewish festival; one of the bigger ones. So this was a time when the people were supposed to be focusing their attention on their redemption from the Angel of Death. Keep this in mind.
Jesus walks in to where religious duties are supposed to be being performed and what does He find? His people had allowed the marketplace to corrupt the runnings of the temple. They had turned what was supposed to be a place of prayer recognized by all nations into an exclusive place of commerce and shady dealings. And they had done so at a time that God has specifically set apart for His purposes. They were using a religious holiday as a way to make some extra money.
How Jesus Responds
After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex with their sheep and oxen. He also poured out the money changers’ coins and overturned the tables. He told those who were selling doves, “Get these things out of here! Stop turning My Father’s house into a marketplace!” (John 2:15-16 HCSB)
Before we latch on to the image of Jesus holding a whip, we must acknowledge, or recognize for the first time, what Jesus was actually doing. Jesus is not here trying to disprove an attitude of non-violence. Jesus is making a deep theological point. He is on a mission to prove that He is the promised Messiah, and He starts right in the heart of His culture: the temple.
In symbolic fashion similar to all of Jesus’ actions, He purifies the temple; He cleans His bride, or the physical representation of it.
Another word symbol: the doves. Doves are a symbol of peace. There are men in the temple selling peace with God as if it were just another product to be purchased.
The Foundation is Laid
Based on what we have seen in the text, it becomes evident that Jesus is not dealing with pacifism or non-violence. He is actually confronting a corrupt religious system. He is confronting men who have taken His bride and are using her as a way of making a little extra money. THis sounds like the job of a pimp. Which means that these men were prostituting Jesus’ wife.
Jesus is defending His family.
But notice something else. Nowhere in the text does it say that Jesus did violence to these men. He drove them out of the temple, yes. But no apparent physical harm is done.
Why Do We Fight?
What is it in us that has such a hard time grasping onto and obeying Jesus’ teachings? Why are we so quick to fight tooth and nail against non-violence?
The answer to these questions can be summed up in one word: sin. That, and we find non-violence to be something horribly dangerous. Why is this? Why do we find a life of peace something to be despised? We will dwell on this matter next time.