It’s important to teach our children how to respond to challenging situations. I have noticed I need to be more diligent, during the emotional teen years, to encourage my kids not to act in haste. Jesus has provided a wonderful example of responding to an offense when he cleared the temple.
The first time I ever read an account of Jesus driving vendors and money changers from the temple, I had believed it was a quick reaction to a transgression.
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:12-13 NIV
I have heard many teachings on these passages. Some suggested Jesus became angry when entering the temple and wanted to address if his anger was a sin. Usually, his outrage was explained as an act of righteous anger.
Scripture does not tell us if Jesus was angry. I believe he was both angered and grieved to find vendors and money changers within the temple.
The area of the temple this occurred was the Court of the Gentiles. It was the outermost courtyard and the one place where gentiles or non-Jew’s could go to pray. Merchants were using the area to sell sacrificial animals to Jew’s that had traveled, or to replace a sacrifice deemed unacceptable. Money changers were necessary to exchange coins for currency approved by temple authorities.
Regardless of how Jesus felt, anger is not a sin. Although, the response to the emotion of anger can lead to sin. Especially if done in haste.
John’s account of Jesus clearing the temple offers additional information:
In the temple courts, he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” John 2:12-16 NIV
John’s account suggests Jesus did not act in haste. He did not immediately begin turning tables and driving out merchants. He made a whip out of cords.
The King James Version states, “he had made a scourge of small cords.” A Roman scourge was a whip of leather straps attached to a handle. Sharpened bone or metal was affixed to the straps.
Strong’s translates “small cord” as schoinion. A cord of rope made of rushes. A few online searches of how to make such a cord suggest it would take some time to complete. Such a whip would not likely include sharp pieces.
I believe the lack of reverence, over a place intended for prayer, would result in anger. Jesus did not react in haste. He took time to make a whip and consider his actions. I wonder if he had to leave for a while to gather materials to make the whip, or if they were readily available there?
Moving the merchants, animals, and money changers was done in a way that had an impact. Simply complaining would not have resulted in change. A whip was useful to get people and animals all moving quickly. If you have ever moved livestock, you know a whip is an effective tool. Not to hit with, but to startle them to move with a cracking sound over their heads.
Jesus was passionate about maintaining reverence for his Father’s house. The time he took to make a whip allowed him to consider how to respond to the situation. It’s a wonderful example for kids and adults alike to pause to reflect, and not react in haste.