The only incident in which Jesus apparently showed his anger was when He arrived at the temple and saw that it had been turned into a marketplace (Jn 2:14) or as what Jesus described as a den of robbers (Mk 11:17).
The incident illustrating Jesus holding a whip made of cords must have been a terrifying scene as he drove away the sheep and cattle and overturned the tables of money changers, scattering coins and monies.
This happened during the Passover which was and is still considered as the most memorable feasts of the Jewish nation, and by law and tradition, all adult male Jews are obligated to go to the temple to celebrate the feast. The temple was always crowded during the Passover Feast (Exo 12) which normally lasted one day, while the Festival of the Unleavened Bread (Lev 23:6) lasted for the rest of the week. The Jews celebrated the Passover Feast on the 14th day of the month, and they started celebrating the Festival of the Unleavened Bread on the next day.
The religious leaders allowed money changers and other merchants to set up booths at the temple, and this made it difficult for people to worship. What the religious leaders forgot was that God’s Temple was a place of worship and not a market place. This apparent desecration made Jesus really angry.
The religious leaders asked for a sign as proof of his authority, and Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days.” (v.19) But they failed to grasp the meaning of what he had said because they were on different planes. Jesus was talking about his coming passion, death and resurrection, while the leaders could see only what was before them.
What Jesus was actually referring to was it was his own body which was the temple that needed to be destroyed through his passion and death and raised again on the third day. What Jesus also meant was that there would be no need anymore for sacrificial offering because he himself would be the sacrifice at the altar on which a new Temple will rise.
But while we may have done away with animal sacrifice in today’s world, we may have replaced this unknowingly with paraphernalia that we try to pass on as part of our worship to God as we build beautiful edifices, innovate our liturgical and worship celebrations, designed programs and projects that, we believe, edify Our God but which in reality are taking our attention away from what worship should be.
What then is the relevance of this passage to the practice of our faith in the here and now? Contrary to what the Pharisees believe, we have to acknowledge that Jesus was the Temple that had to be destroyed so that through his death on the cross He could bridge the gap between God and man.
It is through his death that reconciles us with God, and He fills us with his Holy Spirit that makes us now the new temples (1 Cor 6:19-20). While the Temple was supposed to be the place of worship for the Jews in the olden times, Jesus has changed all that as we can now worship God anywhere we are or in whatever situation we find ourselves. This is so because Jesus who is the personification of the Temple of God is now present in all of us who believe in Him.
It is when we see ourselves as the Temple of God that we can see God not only in us but in others as well. This paradigm shift in our attitude towards worship allows us to give due respect and reverence to our neighbor. It is this realization of our true worth that we can perform good works accompanied by prayer and fasting, alms-giving and regular reception of the Sacraments and attendance in prayer meetings.
Because we (our bodies) are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, we shouldn’t be surprised if God gets angry at us especially if keep on desecrating our body by committing sin. And It doesn’t matter if it’s a venial or mortal sin. Because a sin is a sin, it cuts the flow of grace into our lives. But the upside of this is that God can always rebuild His Temple in us when we repent for our sin, partake of the Sacrament of Confession and receive Him through the Eucharist.
(To those who may be reading our Dayspring column, let me invite you to attend the Prayer Meeting of BLD Detroit that meets every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the St. Paul of the Cross parish church in Detroit, Michigan. For prayer requests, email Ed Malay at [email protected])