Friday of Lent III – John 2:13-25

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 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. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

They burned the elk statue in Portland several summers ago. If you are not familiar with this, the elk statue was donated to the city of Portland by a former mayor and dedicated in 1900. It has no association with a racist or other ideology and the fire set at its base was not a statement. The people protesting George Floyd’s death were cold that night. They lit a bonfire in the granite base of the statue to keep warm. It was that base which became the problem. The city deemed it damaged by the fire and hence a public safety hazard. The bronze statue, which weighs several thousand pounds, was removed to an undisclosed location. The statue itself was unharmed, albeit a little sooty after its fiery evening. You can read more just by searching for “elk statue Portland.” The statue even has its own Wikipedia page. Needless to say, there are plenty of people in Portland who are not pleased with this turn of events.

Today we see a Jesus who looks and acts a little like those protesters whose zealous rage was so evident on my city’s streets. He tips over tables and violently assaults people as he drives them out of his Father’s house. What is this Jesus doing in my Bible? I am happy to read about the good shepherd Jesus, the Jesus who welcomes children, the Jesus who heals the sick and feeds the multitudes. This Jesus, however, makes me uncomfortable. While I am sympathetic to anyone who seeks justice and thought that what happened in Minneapolis when Mr. Floyd died was terrible, I tend to take a dim view of violent protests in the streets. I would like a better and more genteel way to seek change.

But perhaps I need to get more comfortable with this Jesus. God does not deal with sin by genteel persuasion and incremental change. God declares war and kills it. He even goes so far as to take that sin to himself, carry it up a hill where he nails it to a cross in his own body. (Consider Paul’s assessment of this in Col. 2:13-15.) The psalmist often implores God to wage war against evil and exert his power. My desire for genteel persuasion and incremental change may in fact mask my comfort with sin. Instead of being uncomfortable with a zealous, raging Jesus, I need to be more uncomfortablewith the sin, evil, and darkness of my own life and my own world. Lent is a time to repent.

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