Friends, today we read an episode recorded in all four Gospels—namely, Jesus’ paradigmatically prophetic act of cleansing the temple.
Jesus is prophetic to the depth of his being, and his prophetic vocation will manifest itself in all of his speech, gestures, and actions. This entails that his confrontation with fallen powers and dysfunctional traditions will be highly focused, intense, and disruptive.
Standing at the heart of the holy city of Jerusalem, the temple was the political, economic, cultural, and religious center of the nation. Turning over the tables of the money-changers and driving out the merchants, shouting in high dudgeon, upsetting the order of that place was to strike at the most sacred institution of the culture, the unassailable embodiment of the tradition. It was to show oneself as critic in the most radical and surprising sense possible. That this act of Jesus the warrior flowed from the depth of his prophetic identity is witnessed to by the author of John’s Gospel: “His disciples recalled the words of scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Many of the historical critics of the New Testament hold that this event—shocking, unprecedented, perverse—is what finally persuaded the leaders that Jesus merited execution.
Reflect: Have you ever had to confront “fallen powers and dysfunctional traditions” as Jesus did in the temple? What happened and how did you respond?