ATP Blog #13 Zealous
Among the many things that Jesus revealed Himself to be, what we see in today’s passage seems to be the most shocking! The word John uses to describe Jesus, as quoted from Psalm 69:9, is zealous. At first glace, we would say angry! Growing up in a culture that emphasizes peace, my first thought was, ‘Isn’t it wrong to be angry?’ Jesus seems to have let His emotions get the better of Him, even though the circumstances seem to justify this anger. Yet, if Jesus is perfect, shouldn’t He have control over His emotions?
Circumstances It is the first Passover celebration since Jesus began His public ministry. He has made His first appearance in Jerusalem along with His followers. What He found there was a large group of entrepreneurs taking advantage of the situation, selling animals, and exchanging money for the purpose of Temple worship ... in the temple courtyard. It is unclear whether this was a regular occurrence, or a one time event. Either way, this blatant misuse of the Temple area got the Messiah pretty upset.
Response Understatement! He made a whip of cords, and drove them all out of the Temple area, overturning the tables of money, and scattering the animals. This action was fulfillment of Zechariah 14:21b, which states “... there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day.” Jews from many different nations had come to worship, and the place where they were to worship was taken up by these greedy businessmen. Jesus explained His actions by shouting (2:16), “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” In other gospels, it is added the He said that the main purpose of the Temple was to be prayer rather than thievery. The disciples later remembered the prophecy from Psalm 69:9, which has the Messiah filled with zeal for God’s house. Another word for zeal is passion. Elsewhere in the gospels, Jesus explains that He is very passionate about bringing God glory. In order for God to be glorified in His Temple, it needed to be purified from the greed and distractions that had filled it.
Zeal What makes zeal different from out of control anger? One commentator makes an important note: the actions of Jesus did not create a riot, nor was it disruptive enough to get the attention of the Roman guards who watched over the Passover proceedings! The only thing Jesus disrupted was the business taking place in the courtyard. His zeal got the attention of the crowds, making them think about why they were there, and the purpose of the Temple. This is another good example of how Jesus combined grace and truth! The truth was that the religious leaders had allowed greed to overtake the area of worship, focusing rather on the traditions that needed to be carried out, than on the genuine attitude of prayer that should have been there. Graciously, Jesus reminded the people and leaders of that proper focus, without h
arming anyone, or drawing the attention of the Roman soldiers. His emotions were definitely under control, allowing His passion to lead people in the right direction.
Example This zeal of Jesus is an example for us to follow. May we show passion for the glory of God in every area of our lives, mixing grace and truth in guiding people back to God. Like Jesus, we should get angry about the things that distract from genuine worship and prayer to God, but to not let our emotions get out of control. Grace and truth combined will allow that zeal to get people’s attention in a positive way, helping them get back to a heart of worship as God intended.