I’m a regular contributor on our weekly church podcast, Digging Deeper.
This week we launched our series “Jesus Unfiltered” by discussing John 2, which includes the miracle of water being turned to wine and Jesus’ outrage at the temple.
We film our podcast before we see the sermon being discussed; and although we all review the passages ahead of time, we don’t plan or rehearse the podcast- so it gets very organic and takes a direction of its own most of the time. It all makes for a great feel to the discussion, but some weeks I leave wishing I would have said something more or said it differently.
This is one of those weeks.
I said, on camera, that “The image of Jesus with a whip is not my favorite picture of Him in the New Testament”
Since those words came out of my mouth, the story of Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple has not left my mind alone- and after more thought and prayer I have a new love for the image of Jesus with a whip.
Jesus with a whip, driving out people and animals from the temple and turning over tables with “zeal” and “rage” triggered an emotional response in me of fear. It’s as if I was hiding in a corner of the temple, terrified of when His judgement would turn towards me.
My first question of this story was “How am I standing in the way of people experiencing God?”
A new question occurred to me as I further processed the story (after taping, of course):
“How does God feel about the authorities and structures that have kept me from experiencing Him in truth?”
Like many others, I’m a child of deep church hurt. I grew up in a highly conservative church environment that had a very legalistic take on how to please God and a diminishing view of women. Although there was some good mixed with the bad, and many people I love are still part of that church, I have at times felt unprotected by God in His own house. It is outrageous to me the level of imperfection that God is comfortable with- both in His church and in myself. It’s a good thing, but a hard thing.
Since the leadership of the church I grew up in presented themselves as divinely appointed shepherds and none of them were struck down by lightning, I assumed that God was okay with everything that was going on. After college, I walked away from the experience confused and secretly angry, deeply afraid to explore my anger- thinking I was angry at God. Jesus with a whip frees me from being angry at God, and gives me permission to explore and express my anger towards systems and even people who stand in the way of people (like me!) coming to Him. Those tables Jesus turned over had been up at the temple for some time, it was not the first day of exploitation or exclusion in that temple court. It’s unclear why God allowed it to happen up until then- but CRYSTAL clear how he felt about it.
This now makes the image of Jesus with a whip one of favorite pictures of him in the New Testament.
Jay talked about the ways this story and the story of the wedding demonstrate God’s immensely relational nature, and He is right. After re-reading the story this morning, I was struck by the ending. The story is not actually focused on Jesus with a whip or Jesus defending the temple, it is Jesus AS the temple.
“But He was speaking about the temple of His body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that He said this…” John 2:21-22
As we draw near to Resurrection Sunday, I think it’s interesting that the story of Jesus with a whip is probably one of the memories that was recounted on the very first Easter as Jesus’ early followers were trying to process who He was, what His life meant, and what was next.
The truth is I’m not a scared girl, hiding in the corner of the temple court from a crazy man with a whip. I’m the woman that angry man with a whip is fighting for.
Jesus took on the temple, religion, sin, and death to have the chance to be with me forever and WON. EACH. TIME.
So I take back what I said on camera, the image of Jesus with a whip is a beautiful picture of His heart and desire to be recognized as the true temple- a perfectly safe, sacred embodiment where I can be fully loved by God.