“Violence in the Temple:” The Day the Savior Made a Whip
And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,
And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:
And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;
And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.
And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.
-John 2: 13-16
Really, it must have been quite a sight: Cattle lowing, sheep baa-ing, doves chirping, money changers shouting, tables overturning, merchants complaining, coins jingling, opponents challenging, and, finally, disciples remembering.
As far as we know, this is the first time that we have an actual description of Christ using his hands. We know that he worked as a carpenter, and that he had previously turned water into wine, so there is no doubt that He had used His hands. This judgment was very personal.
But this is the first account we have that describes His activities that He would have had to use His hands: He “made a scourge of small chords, he drovethem all out of the temple… and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables…”
“For the time [is come],” said Peter, “That judgment must begin at the house of God…”
And on this day, judgment did begin at the house of God, the very place that should have been the first line of defense against that which challenged the holiness and righteousness of God.
God has placed institutions in this world, and these institutions are bound to obey His Word in their respective spheres. But what to do when those institutions fail? What is the backup plan?
There is quite a warning here in this passage: Our Savior and Lord should not have had to busy Himself with this type of temple cleansing, as those responsible for the temple maintenance should have thrown out the ecclesiastical leprosy long before.
But Christ did act. And He will act. “And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness” said the prophet Malachi, so the judgmental act of Christ should not have surprised anyone. It was, after all, the job of the Levites to guard the temple from this kind of profanity.
For us, there’s a definite lesson: God expects those who uphold His institutions to deal honestly and faithfully. When we profane His institutions, be it the church, the family, or the state, we cannot be surprised when He reacts in judgment.
Can we expect any less? God’s institutions are God’s institutions, not ours. We can’t redefine them, nor can we abandon them.
We can, however, protect them, as is our job. We can be sure that, when God Himself steps in to do the job that we should have been doing, things are not well. The money changers found this out the hard way.
~ Joel Saint