Jesus and Violence: the Exception
When Jesus and violence meet in the Bible, He is usually on the receiving end. There is an exception: The cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem.
How strange to think of the gentle Jesus, whip in hand, driving out the money-changers, overturning their tables, and scattering their coins and goods to the mercy of the crowd. Yet, that is what happened. We must ask questions:
- Was this out of character for Jesus who is supposed to be meek and lowly?
- Why did the merchandising of “spirituality” upset Him so when the religious leaders stood by approving?
What was wrong with this corrupted system of “worship?”
When reading the gospel narratives we sometimes skip over the parts we don’t understand or find unpleasant. Therefore, these parts of the story are forced from our memory as we ruminate on the gentle, compassionate, and friendly side of Jesus’ character. Our reluctance to embrace the entire revelation of the person Jesus when He walked this earth does not morph Him into our image of Him. He remains who He was and is.
Sometimes He got angry.
The full range of His character is so important for us to consider:
- Note the times of discouragement when He was misunderstood.
- There were times of grief when He wept openly.
- Disappointment came when those closest to Him did not believe.
- His biting anger against the religious leaders erupted from Him in the names he called them like, “snakes” and “white-washed tombs.”
- His unbridled joy is seen in the many parties and dinners He attended.
- His delight in children is apparent as they must have squirmed into His lap for a hug.
But why this anger and violence at the Temple?
The Restoration of Worship
Sometimes one must destroy something once good but now corrupt to build something better. What Jesus was doing with the whip and the shouted quotation of prophecy was more than the purging of the Temple. He was destroying the corrupted worship of men in order to restore the True Worship of God.
- On the local scale, Old Covenant worship had been so thoroughly corrupted by wicked leadership that a totally new beginning was needed.
- On the cosmic scale, the Old Covenant was about to be dismantled and the New Covenant erected in its place. In 40 years or so, the Romans would do to the Temple what Jesus did to the moneychangers. Jesus predicted it that day.
The prophecy Jesus shouted as His violence against spun itself out was this:
“Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
A Covenant of Restoration
Indeed, true prayer for all nations is the essence of the New Covenant. Jesus’ ministry was and is to restore our relationship with God. Jesus’ message while He walked this earth was the coming access to the Father each of us would have in prayer. Prayer is so much more than asking God for things. Times of prayer are times of communion with God Almighty! Without the atoning blood of Jesus, none of us could ever have communion with our Maker. Our sins would consume us in a flash.
- With the New Covenant there would be no need for the animal sacrifices—Jesus would be the final Lamb!
- There would be no need for a building called the Temple—each believer in Jesus would be a Temple of the Holy Spirit.
- There would be no need of an exalted priesthood. With the New Covenant each believer is a priest unto the Lord.
- There would also be no single race serving as a doorway to God. The church would be the “chosen generation” and the “One Holy Nation” on earth making the New Covenant House of God a place of prayer for all nations.
The violence meted out by Jesus was not out of character. True Spirituality must never be corrupted by profiteering. To do so is to grieve the Spirit and risk the anger of Jesus. (See Acts 5:1-11!)
May all our houses of prayer be suitable for all nations.
As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
Lord Jesus, sometimes in the Bible we see Your anger. I see Your deep rage and sorrow at scenes of injustice. The corruption of worship is a supreme injustice to mankind. Help me honor “Your Father’s House” as a house of prayer for all nations. Help me brook no prejudice there, no power-mongering leaders, and no profiteering of any kind. Instead, help me pray in Your Name and worship in Spirit and Truth. Your cross restored True Worship. Help the prophesy of the angel hosts be fulfilled in Your house—“peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” Amen.
Jesus Opened Up the Way
Words and Music: Eugene M. Bartlett
1. Jesus Christ the Lord opened up the way to glory
When He died to save us from our ruined state,
And He asks that we shall go tell the world the story,
How His blood will save them from their awful fate.
Jesus opened up the way to heaven’s gate
When He died on the cross,To redeem all the lost;
He prepared the roadThat leads to His abode,
’Tis a road marked by blood But it leads us home to God.
2. And the way is marked by the footprints of the Savior,
With His blood he made it, made it plain and straight;
If you walk that way, it will lead you into heaven,
Lead you safely into glory’s golden gate.
3. Sinner, will you come and join in this heav’nly journey,
Walk the bloody pathway that the Savior trod;
Then when life is over and all the sheaves are garnered,
You will meet the Savior and be not afraid.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved