Lent 3

Gospel: John 2:13-22.

(I’ve added the NIV as a parallel here because it helps gives references to where such-and-such was written.)

This story came up in a recent Facebook discussion when a friend of mine posted this picture:

The heading

WWJD: more options than some people think

That conversation quickly went off into details about what the Greek means, which is fascinating but not what I want to focus on today. The question which intrigues me about this story, within a Christian context where Jesus is meant to be a role model – where the answer to a question like ‘What would Jesus do?’ is expected to point to what we should do – is: is this the sort of thing we should do?

It doesn’t seem very Quakerly, does it? Not just property damage – turning over tables – and theft – throwing coins around – but actual violence with whips. (It’s often depicted as against people, as in this image, but the text seems to say that it’s ‘both the sheep and the cattle’ which get driven out – which seems a little more reasonable, and it does pre-date the era of animal rights. That said, it still seems pretty violent and likely to hurt people as well.) If this is one of the answers to ‘what would Jesus do?’, is that the right question?

Other interpretations of the story have included its use in a war memorial – sculptor Eric Gill felt that merchants and money men were responsible for war, and produced this carving for the University of Leeds:

a relief carving in stone shows Jesus, towards the right in robes and carrying a whip, chasing merchants in modern dress towards the left.

Gill’s war memorial

Using a whip still seems unlikely to contribute to peace, even if this updated version might, taken as a metaphor, be pointing us in a helpful direction.

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