Do you remember the scene where Jesus cleanses the temple? We find him entering the temple in Jerusalem only to see him do… what at first seems crazy. We see him with a whip, turning over tables, sending the merchants and bankers scurrying for the exits. In all of this he commands the attention of the people who are coming and going. Jesus is angry. We call it righteous indignation, but it's raw anger none the less. Jesus is ticked off. He's had it. He’s angry with what he sees. He proclaims at one point how they’re turning a place of prayer into a place of deception and deceit… a den of robbers.
Someone suggested it was a Monday when all this took place… but that’s not the reason he goes off. If you go back to the very first temple, King David was told this temple would be the seat of divine presence among the people. It would be where His glory would rest. I especially love the picture we find painted in Isaiah’s encounter with God recorded in Isaiah 6. The temple was filled with smoke. The thresholds shook and the whole place was filled with God. It scared Isaiah to death. He thought it was over or that at least his life was done… yet in the midst of his holy, awesome presence we see a picture of grace as an angel lifts a coal from the altar touching the prophet on the lips and cleansing him of all guilt.
This was the same temple that Jesus enters to discover money changers and people buying and selling. No wonder Jesus was angry. No wonder he threw out those who were turning that place into something much LESS. Can you see him wielding a whip?
I think somewhere in the depths of my psyche I like it. Jesus getting angry… it’s about time, right? After all there is SO much hypocrisy… so many lies. I understand Jesus is meek and mild, but there has to be an end to it, right? There is a moment when you get ANGRY… at least I find myself feeling that way.
Yet while I love the picture of Jesus with the whip I also struggle with it.
Before I explain do you remember these words…
YOU yourselves are God’s temple…. God’s Spirit dwells in your midst.
Or these words from the pen of Paul to the church in Ephesus...
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
Maybe you’re already grasping where I’m going with this… or should I say where God took me. You see I find myself wondering what God might do on entering our temple, on entering my scene. Would he be angry, disappointed? Suddenly the image of Jesus wielding a whip is not so attractive.
I wonder do we allow things in our “bodies” our “temple” our “community of faith” that Jesus would take a whip to? Do we allow thoughts, attitudes, actions in our lives that destroys the work of God; that make us into a den of iniquity instead of a house of prayer? Suddenly I find myself looking for the angel with those tongs carrying the coal of fire from the altar. Suddenly I’m very aware of my own sin. Suddenly I’m aware of HIS presence and thankful for His mercy and grace. This really is the seat of divine presence.
What do you think?