Read John 2:12-22 here.
I regard the first two chapters of John as establishing Jesus’ identity. The prologue in 1:1-18 makes some grand claims about who Jesus is:
- v1. in the beginning with God, and the Word was God.
- v4. in him was life.
- v10. the world was made through him.
- v12. to those who believe he gave the right to become children of God.
From 1:19 on, John gives examples to back up these statements:
- John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the Lamb of God.
- Andrew, Peter, Philip & Nathaniel follow Jesus.
- Nathaniel declares Jesus to be the Son of God and King of Israel.
- Jesus demonstrates his power with his miracle at the wedding at Cana.
- Jesus demonstrates his authority when he cleanses the temple in Jerusalem.
The story of Jesus cleansing the temple is often used as a basis for discussing anger, when it’s appropriate, and when it’s not. But John doesn’t comment on Jesus’ anger or demeanor. Yes, he made a whip, but was that to flay merchants, or to prod livestock? Here are a couple of different views on this:
“No doubt the disciples tossed and turned a long, sleepless night that evening; it must have been terribly disconcerting to witness Jesus unhinged, throwing furniture, screaming at the top of his lungs, and flinging money into the air. Perhaps they ran for cover with the crowd. I would have.” (read the whole sermon here.)
“When Jesus took that table and put it on end, when he grabbed a fistful of coins and dropped them on the floor, and while he was doing these things quoted the scriptures to people, Jesus is not only telling about the kingdom of God, he’s acting it out. Can you imagine being there? It is spell-binding; I think it would be captivating to watch him and listen to him.” (read the whole sermon here.)
One of these authors sees Jesus yelling and screaming, cattle stampeding and people fleeing. The other sees Jesus teaching, perturbed by what’s taking place in the temple, but teaching his audience, albeit with some very dramatic illustrations.
Which of these descriptions is closer to your picture of this dramatic scene? Which better demonstrates Jesus’ authority? If this passage teaches us of Jesus’ authority, how does it make a difference in our lives?