As a preface, I was talking with some good friends last night and this passage came up. On of my friends contributed an interpretation that made my blood boil. He was clearly wrong and clearly reading a foreign doctrine into the text. I kept my mouth shut, but as I thought of it, I realized I was reading my own doctrine into the text too. Before you answer, please take a moment and see if your answer would have any support if you took away whatever prior notions you carry into the text.
The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
Clearly there was some sort of injustice going on in the temple that Jesus was responding to and, compared most of the other stories told about him, he was uncharacteristically aggressive. The disciples later related Jesus' action to "zeal", which had a number of overtones, then and now, of violence.
On the other hand, Jesus did not ever lead an armed revolt and seems to have done his best to avoid being caught up in such a thing. In John 6, the people are ready to crown him as king and he withdraws from them. While he did cause a disturbance, he really didn't cause any permanent harm. In the end, he was put to death for actions such as this and died without protest.
So two opposing views of this account are:
- Jesus demonstrated civil disobedience by disrupting commerce in the temple.
- Jesus demonstrated using appropriate force to correct an injustice.
Is this a false dichotomy? How should we interpret Jesus' actions?