March 8 – Godly Anger
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; you shall not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he spoke of the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs which he did; but Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man.
We don’t see much of the anger of Jesus in the Gospel’s. Jesus is typically shown as a gentle teacher and miracle worker, but here we see a different side of Jesus. Let’s explore why Jesus was so upset that day in the temple.
The Passover was coming soon and many Jews came from all over to worship in the temple. There were two main sections in the temple; the outer section was where the Gentiles were able to worship and they could watch the Israelites go into the inner section. The outer section was meant to be seen as a “path for non-believers to watch the faithful enter to worship and sacrifice to God.”1 Instead, the outer section was being used to sell “acceptable” sacrifices and trade money to pay the temple tax (only a certain coin was allowed inside the temple, therefore coins from other nations would have to be exchanged at a high rate to the correct coin). The purchasing of the sacrifice may be seen as a convenience for those who had to travel a far distance to Jerusalem, yet those selling the “unblemished animals” in the outer temple were charging many times more than what the same animal would cost outside the temple walls. If someone travelled with their sacrifice and it was found not fitting for sacrifice, they would be forced to purchase one of these “perfect sacrifices” at a cost that many poor could not afford, therefore denying them the opportunity to pay the temple tax and offer a sacrifice to the Lord. This was not the way that the Lord wanted sacrifices to be offered or for the faithful to be denied the opportunity to worship. Finally, the smell, the mess from the animals, and the way the merchants were treating the faithful in the outer temple would turn off those Gentiles who were truly seeking God.
Jesus saw this and needed to cleanse the temple as it was written in the Old Testament (Mal 3:1-3 & Zech 14:21). He made a whip and drove all the merchants out. He was angry, but His anger was justified because what they were doing was offensive to the Lord. When people do things that are evil in the sight of the Lord, it is right for us to be angry with them. We are called to get rid of the things that are evil and to make things right again. If we see someone doing something that is offensive to the Lord, especially in our Churches, we should let our anger give us strength to speak up and point out the offense and make it right. We also need to clean out the temple of our bodies. If we are sinning, we need to turn away from that sin and go to Reconciliation to clean the temple. This was the first time Jesus cleaned out the temple at the beginning of His ministry. He would do it again, three years later, at the end of His ministry (Matt 21:12-13). We need to constantly clean out ‘our temple’ by going to Reconciliation to confess mortal sins, and participating in the Mass which cleans our venial sins.
Jesus related the sacrifice of the animals to the sacrifice He was preparing to make upon the cross. Because of His sacrifice, we no longer need animal sacrifices. He is our perfect and unblemished Lamb and we do not need to pay anything to go to the sacrifice of the Mass each week (or every day). At the time, the disciples did not understand Jesus was the “perfect sacrifice” or that He would rise after death, but after His resurrection, they remembered His words of “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
During the Passover feast and after, many people came to follow and believe in Jesus. He then left Jerusalem to continue to spread the Word of God to all the people, and do the work that God had called Him to do. We too are not finished and are called to continue God’s work to bring more people to believe in the One True God.
- Ray, Stephen K. St. John’s Gospel: A Bible Study Guide and Commentary. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius, 2002. Print.
Lent in Action:
Celebrate in the sacrifice of Mass.
Jesus, thank you for showing us it is ok to be angry with those who are offensive to your Father. Please help me to place my anger properly against evil and help me to use that anger to point out to others how that evil is hurting God. Drive out the “thieves” and evil in my heart and body (Your Temple), so that I will be holy for you when I receive your Body in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. I ask this in your Holy Name. Amen.