Dark Bartering

John 2:15 “After making a whip out of cords, He drove everyone out of the temple complex, with their sheep and oxen.”

Observation: This is the first of two instances where Jesus cleared the temple complex, but this one is interesting because it occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. His first miracle, at Cana’s wedding, had occurred just a few verses earlier. Now He moves from the intimacy of a wedding party to a very public confrontation, his first with Jewish leaders. John tells us that He made a whip, poured out the cash registers and overturned tables…a thorough interruption to business as usual. And watching disciples were reminded that the Psalmist had foreseen such zeal (Ps. 69:9).

Application: What’s going on here? Was Jesus acting in a fit of anger, nostrils flaring, enraged by what He saw? Like a bull charging a taunting matador, He would have had every justification for a furious response as He confronted leaders who had allowed worship to become commercialized. Certainly rage might be my own response to such an abomination. After all, the temple was meant to be a holy place yet its holiness was being violated by the very people meant to benefit from it.

But consider this: the Word says that before He began clearing the complex, He made a whip. How long does that take? He first had to locate the cords to weave together. Did He then sit on a stone, glancing occasionally at courtyard activity as He wove His instrument of destruction? Gradually, I realize that He was perhaps not in the out-of-control rage I have assumed from too-casual readings in the past. Perhaps He instead acted deliberately, moving among tables with such steely-eyed determination as to cause offending merchants to scatter before His advance.

This was no heart-pounding adrenalin rush for Jesus. Here was the second person of the Godhead, the one who could look ahead to the day when He would personally become the locus of all true worship. His zeal for the temple foreshadowed the zeal of true worshippers who would witness the power of His resurrection and fall in worship before Him.

At least I have the smug satisfaction of knowing I would never commercialize my own faith. But have I not bartered with God in the night seasons of life? “Lord, if you’ll do “x” just this once, I promise to do “y”. Or “Lord, because I behave or believe or pray in a certain way, then I lay claim to Your obligation to give me (fill in the blank). Such dark bartering has, I confess, been a shameful part of my journey at times. But in each such moment I am confronted by my steely-eyed Savior, overturning my wares-laden tables, calling me to embrace the Cross.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You come to me in such powerful persistence and simplicity. Rather than bargaining, You simply offer the profoundest good deal in history. I bow before You now, fully impoverished, fully yielded. Thank You for paying the only price that love could pay.

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