Those who like their Jesus sweet and pious better skip today’s gospel. Those who want to explore his complex depths should read on.
The scene in the temple can’t be camouflaged by platitudes: it is violent and chaotic. What prompted Jesus to act so dramatically? We have a clue in the way “my Father’s house” is used throughout John’s gospel. “In my Father’s house are many rooms” we read in 14:2. That sounds spacious, but there is no room for greed, betrayal or sacrilege. The money changers and merchants have desecrated what is most precious to God; they must be expelled quickly and efficiently.
In Jesus’ ensuing discussion with the Jews, their pride is attacked. Any of us who spent forty-six years on a project might react the same way.
As is often the case, they remain on a literal level, seeing the temple as a building. Jesus, however, sees it as an image of the self: beloved of God and incorruptible, transcending the most glorious edifice. As he protected sacred ground, so he fights to preserve God’s children from any who oppress, exploit or harm them. Do we respect each other or ourselves as much as he does?