Today’s Gospel reading shocks us. What happened to ‘Gentle Jesus, meek and mild?’ Today, we see Jesus full of anger. The explanation, perhaps, lies in the words of the Psalm that are quoted by John: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Temple in Jerusalem was God’s house; the sacred place where every Jew, rich or poor, could come to worship God. But when Jesus came to the Temple, he saw that before they were allowed to offer their sacrifice, worshippers had to buy animals from the sellers in the Temple precincts. They paid for the sacrificial animals by changing their hard-earned money for Temple coins. Money was being made from the people’s faith.
We should read the story with close attention. Jesus is angry at the injustice being done to his people, and at the disrespect shown to his Father’s house. But John doesn’t tell us that Jesus raises his fist or hurts anyone, though he turns the tables over and drives out the animals. We should remember, too, that Jesus did not use his power as Son of God to defend himself when the soldiers came to arrest him. Violence was never his way.
Jesus foretold that the sanctuary of his body would be destroyed. On the Cross, he suffered the cruellest death that we can imagine, and instead of using violence, he prayed, ‘Father, forgive them.’