Monday, April 02, 2007

Cleansing of the Temple

According to Mark's gospel, today (the day after the triumphant entry) was the day that Jesus cleansed the temple. I love what N.T. Wright points out about the incident - that this event is not to be viewed as merely a simple tourist's protest. That is, Jesus didn't just come to the temple to worship and get angry because they were people capitalizing on the 'business' of temple worship, but rather He had very specfic aims. The cleansing at the temple was highly symbolic. It signified, among other things, the eventual literal destruction of the temple.

From a Jewish persepective, this is indeed one of the key reasons He was crucified. According to Mark, 'the chief priests and the teachers of the law began to look for a way to kill Him for they feared Him because the entire crowd was amazed at His teaching'.

I always find myself with somewhat of a skewed image of the temple incident. Perhaps its from a lifetime of church sponsored passion plays on limited budgets. But my image tends to be Jesus walking into a small courtyard where about 20 or 30 people are present and He gets really upset and starts knocking over all the tables and yelling at everyone --- chickens are flying and its a quite a scene. Well if you've ever seen a model of the temple you will immediately recognize that the historical scene would have looked quite a bit different. And we're not talking dozens of people we're talking thousands upon thousands! Its a little too easy to forget the grandiose scale of the event.

Peace of our risen Lord Jesus Christ be with you all this Holy Week.


Robert B. said...

What I've always found interesting about the cleansing of the temple is Christ's willingness to use violent action in a righteous cause. Indeed, the entire temple scene is proof that, in specific cases, God does allow for the use of violence...

TheGodFearinFiddler said...

Robert - thanks for the comments. I understand your point but I dont see that this incident approves of violence in any way. (It is neither approving nor condemning it - it simply isnt a lesson about violence IMO).

We know that violence is inherently disordered. Sometimes force is necessary to ensure justice but that is a separate argument. Regardless, you are right to assume that Jesus wasn't a strict pacifist (at least not in the sense that we think of pacifism) and He did allow His disciples to carry weapons.

If you will read Wright's work (Jesus & the Victory of God) - I think you will find that he argues convincingly that Jesus consistently condemned those who thought the 'kingdom of God' was going to come about through a violent revolt against God's pagan enemies (Rome).

Jesus came to wage the fight against God's TRUE enemy (the Satan).

On the issue of anger, at least in Mark's gospel He doesn't speak specifically of Jesus being angry at this incident (but His actions sure imply it!) There is another incident in the beginning of the 3rd chapter of Mark - "He looked around at them in anger and deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts" therefore we know He did indeed feel 'righteous' anger from time to time.

Thanks for stopping by.