Jesus cleaned out the temple twice, once at the beginning of his ministry, and once at the end.
A lot of folks read the story about Jesus chasing the cattle and sheep out of the temple, of Jesus overturning the tables of the business-people there, and they infer that Jesus was angry, that he was displaying a holy wrath.
But that’s not what the stories actually say. In fact, since the stories never say what Jesus was feeling. Anybody who declares what Jesus was feeling – whether they think he was angry or whatever – are using something *other* than Scripture for that statement. Mostly, they’re imposing their own imagination into the gap of where the Bible is silent.
That is not Bible interpretation. That’s abusing the Bible to justify your own prejudices and misunderstandings of who God really is.
So what does the Bible actually say?
The first time, in John 2, it says that Jesus saw what was going on in the temple, and then stopped to weave a whip out of cords (literally, out of cords made from rushes, from plants like grass). Some observations:
• It takes a fair bit of time to make a whip, and it takes even longer to make one out of *small* cords. This was not a rash action, not an act of rage or passion. This was carefully thought out.
• The sort of whip you make from rushes or small cords is not a weapon. It’s a flimsy thing, only useful for driving livestock. This is not Indiana Jones’ favorite weapon; it’s more like a sisal rope. It will get the animal’s attention, but no more.
• The record is very clear: Jesus used even that wimpy whip only on the cattle and sheep. He reacted to the people differently, and unpleasantly for them, but Jesus did not go after people with even a wimpy whip.
The second event (Matthew 21, Mark 11, and Luke 19) is different. Jesus came into the temple during his “Triumphal Entry” on Palm Sunday. So he saw the shopping mall that they were setting up that day.
But it was the *next* day that he came back and cleaned the place out [Mark 11:11-12].
This was not a rash action either. He went back to his AirBNB outside town, and took no action whatsoever until the next day. He certainly had time to think through his choices. And knowing how Jesus did things, I’ll bet he talked it over with Father before he did anything. After all, this is the guy who said, he “can do only what he sees his Father doing” [John 5:19]. So apparently, cleaning out the temple was something he saw his Father doing.
Conclusion: the actual facts of what the Bible says about these events, absolutely do not support the idea of Jesus flying off the handle, Jesus in a rage, Jesus having a temper tantrum. Jesus was not out of control.
Yes, he did clean the place out. Yes, he did make a big old mess. Yes, he interrupted business in a very big way.
But there is no record of him ever hurting anyone, either human or animal. This was not an emotional reaction of any sort: in both cases, the record is very clear that he took his time before responding.
Summary: there are lot of folks who have a vested interest in the idea of an angry God. Some of them have leathery wings. But the New Testament doesn’t actually support that silly idea nearly as much as they shout and fuss.
Don’t believe their shouting and fussing.
There were some remarkably talented musicians in the heyday of rock & roll, back in the 70’s and such.
Have you ever noticed that a whole lot of the “big name” 70’s bands are still on tour, still singing the same songs, still riding that wave. And in all honesty, they’re still making a good living that way, reliving their past successes.
Other artists with just as much of a heyday in the past, are not riding on the past successes. They’re still pushing forward, still staying fresh, still developing.
Don’t worry, this is going to make sense in a minute.
I was listening to one of those “golden oldies” (ironically, it was a song called “Comfortably Numb”) when Father caught my attention, and pointed out that there are at least two lessons to learn here:
1) The artists who made the turn and are still fresh and creative have generally spent a season or three in a hard place before they were able to move on in their craft.
2) This principle is true in the kingdom (and this one really kicked me in the gut). There are lessons for me (and maybe you) here:
2a) There are some remarkably gifted ministries of the past heydays of one revival or another who are still singing the same (basic) message, still riding that wave. And in all honesty, they’re still making a living that way, reliving their past successes. Some are big names; others still have regional or just informal spheres of influence. We notice the big names more.
2b) There are other ministries (the ones that come to my mind tend toward prophetic ministries, though that may just be my perception) that have had just as much of a heyday in the past, but are not riding on the past successes. They’re still pushing forward, still staying fresh, still pressing in for a fresh revelation for this fresh season.
2c) The difference very often is about who has been willing to be allured into the wilderness, away from busyness and “success,” to sit with the Almighty, to listen to his heartbeat, to understand more of his heart, particularly his intents for today.
I remember that after his baptism, Holy Spirit “drove” or “compelled” Jesus into the wilderness [Mark 1:12] for a remarkable and memorable challenge. But at the end of that adventure, “the angels ministered to Him.” And afterwords, he “returned in the power of the Spirit.”
Apparently seasons in the wilderness are valuable.
I observe a few things here:
• Wilderness seasons seem to be God’s timing [cf Mark 1:12 & Hosea 2:14], not ours.
• But our choices are incredibly powerful here:
○ Do we choose to go to the scary, uncomfortable place that he’s leading?
○ Once we’re in that place, do we stand up and resist the evil that (mistakenly) thinks we’re weak? Do we whine and beg for people to pray for us, or do we stand in the devil’s face and plant ourselves on the foundation of the Word (both scripture and prophetic words)? [Note: Community is precious in these times, but wildernesses are generally solitary events.]
○ Do we let angels minister to us? (Do we know how?)
○ When we come successfully through the wilderness, we walk in more of “the power of the Spirit.” What do we do with that power, that influence?
If this feels rough, that’s only because it is. I’m in the midst of these lessons myself. I don’t have all the answers anymore. I only share this in case others are going through such a time, or will shortly, and might benefit from some signposts along that trail into the wild places.
Back when Seattle’s Kingdome was still up, I had an interesting experience there. I was with some friends who were setting up for a Promise Keepers thing (yeah, that long ago).
They shushed all the workers, and waited for it to get quiet. Then they dropped the lid on a huge equipment case. It made a formidable “Bang” as I expected. Then it echoed. And echoed. And echoed. It was nearly a minute before that single bang stopped rumbling around that room.
Another time, I was with a musician (a gift I do not have) at a canyon with a solid echo. She made music with the canyon. She sang some things, and the canyon echoed them back later, and then she sang harmony or rhythm with it. It was amazing. She was literally singing with herself through the time warp of that canyon’s echo.
While I don’t have the music gene, I do have the science gene. Did you know that both radar and sonar are both examples of creating pictures using echoes? Sonar uses echoes of sound under water. Radar uses echoes of radio waves in the air. It’s amazing how much detail they can come up with if they’re careful.
Sound is an interesting thing. It’s just stuff vibrating. Most commonly it’s air vibrating, but sound travels through most anything that will pass vibrations on. Water is especially good. Even space is not completely empty; many kinds of vibrations do still pass through space.
Another thing about sound is that it takes time to get from here to there. Light takes time too, but compared with light or electricity or radio waves, sound is really slow. That’s why when we see a lightning strike, the crash of thunder is delayed.
(You can measure the distance to the strike: every five seconds of delay indicates a mile; a twenty second delay means the strike was four miles away. Physics is also useful!)
One more factoid about sound: it loses volume as it travels distance (and therefore time). It’s a logarithmic scale, so every time the distance doubles, the volume drops by another six decibels, or about half of it’s energy.
So if the thunder you heard twenty seconds after you saw the lightning strike was 90 decibels, then twenty miles further away it will drop to 84 decibels, but it won’t drop that much again until it hits 78 miles from the source, but that won’t happen until almost a minute and a half after the strike. The next time it drops by half will be 160 miles (and almost three minutes) away. And it keeps going.
Sound loses half its energy every time you double the distance (or the time) since it was created. But that means that no sound ever goes away completely. It just keeps losing a portion of its energy. In fact, science nerds have actually measured the echoes of the Big Bang, from 13.8 billion years ago. It was very quiet, and they had to listen closely, but they did hear it (and they won a Nobel Prize for it),
OK. Sorry for the nerd-fest there. But we’re not quite done yet.
When God spoke and said, “Let there be light,” he made a sound. (My screwball personal opinion is that this sound actually was the Big Bang, but who knows.) Because he made a sound, therefore by the laws of physics, the echoes of his voice are still rattling around the universe.
The other thing that happened when God spoke and said, “Let there be light,” was that light was, in fact, created. When God speaks – and this is one of the basic facts of the universe – God’s voice carries not only information, it also carries power; it carries the power to accomplish what is declared. Think of it as the design for the creation and the funding to make it happen.
(And that, of course, is why our own words are so important. Being created in God’s “image and likeness,” our words also carry both information and power, though maybe not as much as his. We need to wield that power intentionally, not carelessly, but regardless of our means, power is wielded when we speak.)
Now here’s where I’m going. If the echoes of God’s creative statements are still echoing around the universe (and they are), does that also mean that the information and the power that they carried is also still echoing around the universe?
I recall that there are a whole lot of places in the universe (seriously: trillions of such places) where ordinary matter is condensing into big blobs of matter, where friction and gravity ignites them and a new star is born, spewing forth newly created light where no light had been a moment ago. That looks to me like an echo of “Let there be light.”
The part that really captures my attention is a little later in that same Bible chapter, where God spoke again. Part of those words included, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.”
What if those words that resulted in the creation of mankind are still echoing around the universe, echoing around the Earth? Would that mean that God’s creativity is still at work forming mankind, forging mankind? Or do you think our creation was a one-time thing, and God isn’t still refining his masterpiece?
I have begun to wonder if we as a species are still in the process of creation. We’re not just starting out, but neither are we finished and done. I’m thinking that God is still molding and forming and making us into the mature Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom that he’s always planned for us to be.
The human race is pretty untidy. But it’s not broke. It’s just not finished yet.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 1John 3:2
It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was out and the rains of winter hadn’t come yet so it was cool and clear.
I was wandering through a grassy field with Father. We were talking about something or other, sauntering, quiet and peaceful. I was running my fingertips through the tops of the grass as we walked.
I loved the way the wind moved the grass, blowing gently, eddying. The tops of the grass swaying with the breezes was fascinating and lovely. I sighed in appreciation.
I latched onto one stalk of grass as I walked and pulled it out, something to fiddle with as we walked, rolling it around my fingers.
After a few minutes of fiddling blankly with the grass, I looked at the single stem of grass, and suddenly I saw it. Suddenly I realized that the single stalk of grass was every bit as beautiful - in a completely different way - as the entire field of grass. The tall, straight stalk had a classic, almost a formal beauty.
I reflected on that for a while as I looked at my piece of grass. Then I looked more closely, and I saw the pattern of the veins in the leaf. It was on the stem, too: completely irregular patterns that reflected it’s Creator’s attention to detail.
I stood there in awe of how beauty infused the grass at every level: the field was beautiful, the single stalk was beautiful, the tiny veins were beautiful. What a wonderful Creator we have. That’s Jesus (John 1). He’s amazing.
Suddenly, I remembered my high school biology classes where I examined the cells of a leaf of grass. That had another beauty all its own: row after irregular row of semi-autonomous life all contributing to the overall life of the plant, each asymmetrical in its beauty.
And then I thought about the molecular structure of the grass, the molecules all reaching out and attaching to the molecules, all the atoms perfectly in place within each molecule. Wow. What beauty at that level, too.
And then we could talk about quarks and neutrinos and string theory! Beauty, all the way down! I was overwhelmed.
And that’s it. Nothing profound. Just amazement at a Creator who fills, full to the brim, everything He touches with beauty.
Beauty is everywhere. I just need eyes to see it. And when I do, I get to see more of God’s amazing attributes.
I’m so proud of my big Brother. He’s amazing!