St John 2: 13 – 25
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.
This reading is so well known, yet it doesn’t sit comfortably with us that Jesus was angry and violent. To those in the Temple that day, Jesus’ behaviour is that of a violent thug. His actions seem more like those of rioters and looters. Yet we accept this as Jesus doing the right thing…maybe we need to stop and consider the actions of people who we consider acting in the same way. Jesus was angry and frustrated that the Temple, the heart of Jewish faith practice had been turned into a marketplace that excluded the poor and marginalised of the community.
Try imagining that you are one of the poor, marginalised and oppressed people standing at the entrance to the Temple watching as Jesus blows a fuse and flips over the tables, throws money everywhere and smashes the baskets holding birds open so they fly away. Then to top it all off he MAKES a whip (he Blue Peter’s a whip from cord – he utilises what is at hand – that’s impressive) to drive out animals. Nobody is trying to stop him, probably due to terror at what this lunatic is going to do next. Jesus is red-faced, sweaty, and looking crazed, yet he is smashing up the system that keeps you marginalised, oppressed and poor. How do you feel?
The last two years have left people feeling frustrated, and tired, but there is also a current of dissatisfaction. We saw how nature began to recover internationally because of our lock-downs, lock-ins, quarrentines, but at the same time people struggled financially, and mental ill-health in all ages soared. Then when we see people acting out on their anger and frustration we sit and judge, rather than asking what the meaning behind it is. Jesus got mad, he got beyond angry and challenged the status-quo and tried breaking the system of oppression. Maybe we need to get angry too.
Living God, sometimes we feel so angry and frustrated about the marginalisation and oppression we see, but then we feel guilty for feeling that way. Help us to take that frustration and anger and weave it into action that challenges the systemic evil of the world, so that people can live life to the fullest. Amen.