A friend asked me recently if Jesus was ever angry. As I remembered the accounts of Jesus in the temple flipping the tables, I started to smile. “Yes. He was.” I texted her back.
The recent events of #metoo and #churchtoo have left so many frustrated and furious. We’re not just angry at what happened. We’re angry at the people who keep telling us to be quiet about it, or worse, defending it.
“Shhh. Don’t make waves. Don’t cause a stir. Can’t you just keep quiet and move on??”
We are furious about people claiming to know Jesus and saying those things with their responses or lack thereof. As I sit in my fury and indignation and hostility and confusion at this landscape we find ourselves in, I remember our Jesus. Not the political one. Not the pale one in church pictures. Not the neat, tidied up, friendly prophet.
I remember the one who flipped the tables.
Jesus had just returned to Jerusalem from traveling, teaching and healing people. He entered the city and went to the temple. It was the Passover, when Jews would make their pilgrimage to make their annual sacrifices at the temple. There was only one temple, and they had to go to that one. There were no satellite locations. For some, it was a long way. In the Old Testament God laid out VERY specific rules about how these sacrifices were to be made. He also made provisions for people coming from a long way off or for people who couldn’t afford as much as others. (See Leviticus 1:14, 5:7, 5:11, 12:8, 14:22)
Jesus walks into what was supposed to be a beautiful place to house God’s presence and also “a house of prayer,” for all people. (See Isaiah 56:6-7). And he sees the money changers and merchants there, selling things to people who needed to make sacrifices. They weren’t just business people. They were exploiting a people in need of specific items to make specific sacrifices. They were exploiting a spiritual need. And this is where we see Jesus get angry. At exploitation. At manipulation of power. This is when he flips the tables.
“And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21: 12-13
This cleaning out of the temple is loud and it is not pretty. It is noisy and scary. Other accounts of this same story say he took a whip of cords and drove the merchants out with it. This is not friendly or sweet or politically correct. It feels raucous and messy, but it is definite and it is certain. Jesus is not quiet when it comes to the exploitation of the oppressed, the unseen, the less fortunate.
But. When it’s clear and the dust has settled, we see what happens next.
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. Matthew 21:14.
When the house is clean, free from the predators, free of the exploiters and their manipulation, He calls forward the exploited, the hurting, the oppressed, the unseen. They are blind and they are lame. He ushers them in gently, and he helps them begin to see for the first time and gives life to their weary, useless bones. They have movement, sight, joy where there had been none. They have new life where there had only been deficit and pain.
And now. He is here. He is with us. He is helping us flip the tables of the abusers, the exploiters, the powerful, the kept safe by money, the seemingly untouchables. We are saying, “Enough!” And he is saying it with us.
And it is loud and it is scary and it is messy, but it is not the end of the story because we know, after it’s clean, then there’s the healing.
We will bring our blindness and our lameness. We will see with new eyes and leap and dance with new legs. This is not the end of our story. The end of our story is resurrection and new life. The end of our story is beauty from ashes, like phoenixes, we will rise. Our story is truth and the freedom that comes from telling it. Our story is #metoo, #churchtoo #andyet…
We are mid-table flip sisters, but hold on. The healing is coming.