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Lenten Reflection 2:13-25

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.”17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.”17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,[c] and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore 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.

John 2:13-25

Jesus is angry, seriously angry. Beyond anger, he is outraged. What else? Out of control? Incensed? Insane? What word or words can we use to describe this grown man who goes into the Temple of Jerusalem, the most sacred of places, and whips innocent animals, overturns the furniture, hurls coins to the ground, expels even the peaceful doves? This is not the Jesus of my Sunday School imagination, the Jesus who is calm and in control, reflective and philosophical; the teaching Jesus who turns random situations and encounters into teachable moments. This Jesus is full of rage, of passion and zeal.

The language of the passage is intense, biblical in the Old Testament sense. The narrator focuses like a laser on action, movement, emotion, and dramatic conflict. It is like we are watching a movie in fast motion. Even the son of a carpenter would probably need some time to make a whip out of remnants of rope, but here it happens in seconds, almost instantaneously, as if somehow the whip just miraculously appears out of nowhere.
The disciples, perhaps like the modern audience, are stunned: they are reminded of the Psalms, where David, lonely and isolated, seems to struggle with how his love and devotion to God have consumed him. And so this Jesus, it seems to me, is also a sad and lonely Jesus. He knows that his life on earth is coming to an end, that he will suffer a painful death. And though he is aware of the resurrection, I don’t think that this brings him much comfort.

So in this passage, where we, his disciples, are given a clear image of his future – eternal life arising from mortal death – we see a very human Jesus, a Jesus who suffers and agonizes and is afraid of the future, with its painful departures and separations and transitions into new and unfamiliar territory. And perhaps we, with our own struggles and fears and anxieties, can take some comfort in that.
I am hoping that the disciples when reminded of David’s struggles in Psalms 69, were also reminded of David’s prayer in that same passage. For it would have comforted them, much as it should comfort us:

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your
saving faithfulness.
 
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