April 01, 2022 | Letters from the Lead Pastor by Brandon Lenhart
Did Jesus ever lose his “temper?” You know, did he ever get angry and fly off the handle? Did he ever say anything in the heat of the moment that he regretted? Did he ever respond in a way that he felt ashamed about? The answer is, No.
The one instance that could be argued in the affirmative is when Jesus’ turned over the merchant and money changers’ tables and drove them out of the Temple with a whip. Sounds kinda like he lost his temper in that case, right? Well, let’s take a closer look at that story and see. (Take a moment and read John 2:13-22). What did you learn?
At first glance, it seems that Jesus lost his temper, and, in a fit of rage, drove the money changers and merchants out from the temple. However, upon closer look, Jesus didn’t fly off in a fit of rage, he was calculated and purposeful in what he did. Verse 15 tells us that he “made a whip of cords.” That means that he stopped, collected the materials he needed, and spent some time braiding together (more than likely) strands of leather into the form of a whip. Typically when a person “loses their temper” they don’t take the time to do much of anything but lash out.
What does he do next? Jesus takes the whip and drives out the money changers and merchants. He turns over their tables, pours out their coins, and drives out the animals they were selling. He also has the presence of mind to tell them to stop making his Father’s house into a “marketplace.” And when asked for a sign to validate why he did this, he told them to “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” In this response he was speaking of his own body.
Jesus’ anger was controlled, focused, and righteous. He did not fly off in a fit of rage as it might seem.
So, why did Jesus do this? There are several reasons: 1) the place where the merchants and money changers were set up was called the “Court of the Gentiles.” This was the place where converted Gentiles were allowed to come and worship GOD. Imagine how difficult that would have been with all the clanging of money and people haggling, and sounds of animals. 2) the animals being offered for purchase were “approved” by the religious leaders. If someone brought their own animal to be sacrificed, it must pass inspection first. Of course, this was a racket because the selling of “official” sacrifices was a money-making business for many of the religious leaders. 3) the money changers were in place to change over the currency. Only “temple” coinage was allowed to be offered at the temple. Of course, there was a “modest” upcharge to change over the money to the proper currency.
Considering all these things, and knowing that this wasn’t the first time in his life Jesus had witnessed this, at just the right time, Jesus made a powerful statement about the state of things in the temple of GOD. The only thing that would get through to them would be a calculated effort to redirect their attention back to GOD.
Sometimes it takes hard words and actions to wake someone up to the problem in their life. Jesus’ actions in the temple in John 2, were a wake-up call to the religious leaders and all the worshipers of GOD, that their focus was off. Yes, Jesus was angry, but he had not “lost his temper.” In his righteous rebuke of their mocking worship, Jesus forced the people in the temple to come face to face with their sin. His actions were actions of love, not rage. But sometimes love is tough.
Rather than taking Jesus’ example in John 2 of how we are to address blatant sin, the bigger issue at stake is to remember what’s most important in life. What makes GOD angry is sin. And what makes GOD angrier are those who perpetuate it rather than alleviate it.
GOD truly is slow to anger and quick to forgive. We see this in the life of Christ. We see this in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
Do we need a wake-up call today? I believe we do. Church, it’s time to come to the realization that the “marketplace” mentality has invaded the temple of GOD once more. It’s time to rededicate ourselves and our institutions to GOD and become people of prayer. Instead of losing our temper at the world, maybe we should take a lesson from Jesus’ playbook and redirect people back to true worship of GOD.