Jesus’ Kickass Mercy in the Temple

And God is still to be found within the most vulnerable.


“Making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle.”

It’s raging Jesus! This is the fiery, zealous Messiah we’ve been waiting for, bursting in, whips blazing …right?

Every now and then, a meme of this scene pops up in social media, with a caption: “When asking ‘What would Jesus do?” remember that turning over tables and chasing people with whips is within the realm of possibilities.” Because, you know, Jesus could get violent when he was pushed far enough.

Except… no.

This is a kickass scene, but it’s kickass mercy.

Jesus is shutting down the system of sacrifice.

The temple is supposed to be where people come to experience God. In order to sacrifice in the temple, people would have to buy animals if they weren’t able to raise their own, and inflated prices exploited the most vulnerable. Beyond that, to make impoverished people feel as if they had to purchase sacrificial animals in order to experience blessing is hypocritical. Yes, Jewish law laid out provisions for sacrifice, but it also laid out provisions for caring for the poor and forgiving debts… and those mandates were not being fulfilled.

There was poverty, exploitation, corruption… and Jesus comes to shut it all down.

This is a prophetic act of mercy. Mercy doesn’t always look like meekness. Sometimes, it looks like turning the tables, overthrowing the powers of greed and violence, and setting everyone free.

The whip? It wasn’t for hitting people. It was for driving out animals… so that they can’t be slaughtered. They, too, are being freed from a sacrificial system.

The temple is where God was to be found insofar as where ever people gather, God is there. God is with us and reflected through us as human beings. But God is most especially reflected in the vulnerable, the poor, the marginalized. 

And God is in Jesus because Jesus is in complete solidarity with the most marginalized. 

“Destroy this temple, and in three days, I will raise it up.” The place where God is now located is not within walls, but within flesh. 

And God is still to be found within the most vulnerable. Whatever we do to one another, we do to God.

A note of caution: John’s Gospel uses the words “the Jews” a lot. It is the religious and political elite that he is referring to, not the whole of the Jewish people. 

The Olive

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