Last week I wrote a post on the first half of John 2 and today I am finishing my thoughts on the chapter. I must admit I love the second half of the chapter. Perhaps it’s juvenile, but I love that Jesus gets mad. Real mad. Here is the scene: Jerusalem has swelled from roughly 60,000 people to over 250,000 because of Passover- a religious event commemorating God’s protection of the Israelite people throughout history.
In Old Testament times, God established animal sacrifice as a means for his chosen people to atone for their sins. The wrath of God would be executed on the animal instead. People are spared. Animals die. Animal sacrifice continued in Jesus’ day. And since faithful Jews came from long distances, they would not travel with their soon-to-be-executed animal. Instead they would buy animals at the temple. Convenient, right?
Since Jews came from various regions there were a handful of currencies in use, but the temple only accepted one. So money changers would set up shop a month before Passover and exchange “foreign” currencies for the accepted Tyrian coin. Also convenient, right? One problem. Their exchange rate was grossly inflated above the accepted rate. Somebody was getting rich. The money changers were (no surprise), but another group was too. The temple officials. The guys who ran the show. The guys in charge of maintaining the purity of the temple. Remember, the temple is where Jews experienced God, where God revealed his glory. One author has called it “the place where heaven and earth collided.” Are you beginning to sense the root of Jesus’ anger?
Try to imagine the scene: tens of thousands of people packed into a small area and trying to buy and sell animals and exchange money. It was pure chaos. You might guess this madness occurred outside the temple walls. It did not. It was going on in the area designated for the Gentiles (non-Jews) to worship God. These people could not have possibly been able to pray. So the temple, already segregated by ethnicity, was now making it impossible for these Gentiles to worship God.
The economic exploitation, coupled with the flagrant disregard for the Gentile people, pushes Jesus over the edge. He makes a whip of cords and starts driving people and animals out of the temple…I always envision Jesus whipping people like we do with a wet towel! He flips over the money changers’ tables. He taunts the temple officials by saying: “Destroy this place and in three days I will raise it up.”
Things are about to change. They’ll never be the same. Jesus’ words and actions have such terribly deep meaning. What do they all mean? I’ll do my best to answer that question in my next post.