In the gospel of Luke this episode follows Jesus' acclaimed entry into Jerusalem. Did he feel that the momentum was on his side? Would he have done the same in different circumstances? The temple was the apple of Israel's eye and it would be hard to imagine a more provocative gesture short of declaring himself Son of God, which he later on did. But the temple was also the apple of Jesus' eye and he was upset that the space of worship “a house of prayer” had been turned into a marketplace - “a den of thieves.”
Jesus' teaching ...turn the other cheek [Lk.6:29] and conduct in confrontation “arrest, passion, crucifixion” were clearly non-violent. Today's action on his side is the only instance in the gospels that clashes with his otherwise consistently non-violent stance. It would be hard for me to classify this one-time reaction “He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out... he spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables...” [Jn. 2:15] as non-violent resistance. My reading of it is that for Jesus even non-violence was not an absolute. After all “There is an appointed time for everything...” [Eccl. 3:1]
Rather than elaborating on how such a gesture was received by the official custodians of the temple, I feel drawn to Jesus' earlier reply to the Samaritan woman's testing question about the proper place to worship God: ...the hour is coming when you will worship neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem... [Jn. 4:21]. The whole world is God's living space and we thus worship God everywhere. Even if liturgically we may do so in a church or chapel, we are not confined to one single space of worship.
Now, if all space is God's space, how do we treat that space — our life-space? Do we treat it as God' space, which it is, or do we emancipate some dimensions of our lives, where we rule and carry on our own trading? Today's gospel reading challenges us to honest consistency and to let the Lord examine and question how we treat our life-space.
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