In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 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. ~ John 2:14-15
So much for gentle Jesus, meek and mild.
You know the backstory here. The Sadducees, who ran temple affairs, had turned the temple into a giant bizarre in which the poor were getting ripped off. In a greedy display of phony piety, the chief priests insisted that only temple-approved coinage could be used to buy sacrificial animals. No idolatrous coin with the image of the Roman emperor would be allowed in the sacred precincts. And of course the exchange rate they charged was obscenely high.
And they would not allow you to bring your own sacrificial animal with you, even though Scripture allowed it. No, their inspectors would find some defect in your animal and force you to buy a pre-approved specimen from them, again at an outrageously high markup. It was a seller’s market.
God allowed the poor to offer pigeons if they wanted to worship God but could not afford a sheep or a goat. The Sadducees were fleecing even the poorest of the poor.
Now Jesus Christ is the model Christian and the model man. We are told in Scripture to imitate and become like him. In fact, Paul tells us in Romans 8:29 that God’s entire purpose is that we should “be conformed to the image of his Son.”
This means that there must be a place somewhere in our Christology, somewhere in our understanding of biblical manhood, for the display of the kind of righteous indignation that Jesus demonstrates here.
To be sure, it’s not as if this display of anger was routine for Jesus. This is the only instance of this kind of physical and forceful display of outrage that we read about.
While this was not an everyday occurrence with him, we also must note that Jesus had the legal and moral right to do what he did. He said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers.” The temple belonged rightfully to him. It is “my” house, he told them. He wasn’t making a scene in somebody else’s house, somewhere where he had no right to be, but in his house where he had every right to be and act.
If someone squatted in your home, vandalized the place with graffiti, and turned it into a crack house, you’d have every right to enter the place and start throwing some stuff around. And so did Jesus when the political and spiritual leaders of his day had trashed the house of the living God.
The reason this episode seems so jarring to modern Christian sensibilities is that the contemporary, seeker-sensitive church has so feminized the gospel that it has leached all the masculine virtues right out of it.
We have elevated the feminine virtues of Christianity, the softer virtues of kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and compassion, to the point where they are regarded as the essence and the sum of what it means to be Christlike.
But the masculine virtues of boldness and courage and righteous indignation are just as much a part of the character of Christ as the softer virtues. Sadly, when God’s men today exhibit the same audacity that Christ did they are often accused by nicer-than-Jesus Christians of being legalistic, judgmental, and hard hearted.
Consequently, the prophetic voice of God’s men calling a nation back to God by speaking bold truth to power has been muted and marginalized. And our society is suffering grievously as a result.
Now to be sure, both the softer virtues and the edgier virtues of Christ are to be admired and imitated. It’s not a matter of either/or but both/and. Jesus was both a lion and a lamb. And he had the wisdom and discernment to know when it was time to be gentle and when it was time to utter a roar which shook the earth.
Bottom line: the problem with the modern church is too much lamb and not enough lion. It’s time to fix that.