The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone. (John 2:13-25 – NRSV)
This incident is recounted in the three synoptic Gospels also – Matthew 21:12–17; Mark 11:15–19; Luke 19:45–48.
In John, the incident is placed at the beginning of the Gospel, whereas in the synoptics it comes towards the end, a precursor to the passion narratives.
Interestingly, John is the only one who speaks of Jesus making “a whip of cords”.
For a more extensive consideration of this passage in John click here
The purification of the temple has much to teach us about human growth – individual and communal.
Growth is mostly a matter of purification – for both the individual and the community. It is not so much what we achieve but what we allow and enable to be achieved in us and through us. Mary’s attitude is the right one: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
We can quite reasonably look on the purification of the temple by Jesus as an angry act. We can also look on it as a loving act. Sometimes love demands anger. Much damage is done to relationships – with ourselves and others – when we are unwilling to be angry and confront destructive behaviours.
In the Letter to the Ephesians we read: ” …. speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Our relationships with ourselves and others depend on our willingness and ability to speak the truth in love. – and to act appropriately. Even if it means upending some furniture and creating a scene.
We are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). How much of what goes on in that “temple” allows God’s love to have its way? How much gets in the way of God’s love?
“God and humanity are like two lovers who have missed their rendezvouz. Each is there before the time, but each at a different place, and they wait, and wait, and wait. He stands motionless, nailed to the spot for the whole of time. She is distraught and impatient. But alas for her if she gets tired and goes away. …. The crucifixion of Christ is the image of the fixity of God. God is attention without distraction. One must imitate the patience and humility of God.” (Simone Weil, “The Things of the World” in G. A. Panichas (ed.) The Simone Weil Reader, David McKay Company Inc., 1977, 424f.)