Monday of Holy Week – “Fight Like Jesus” review part 3

You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

As we move into Monday of Holy Week, Porterfield looks at one of the most controversial aspects of Monday of Holy Week – the whip that Jesus fashioned and used as he cleansed the Temple of the animals and money changers. The simple argument is this – Jesus made a whip and used it, clearly he was fine with using violence as a means to an end. A dive into Scripture helps us to see that this is not the case and that too often we read into Scripture what isn’t there.

Or as Porterfield says, “The result of such a portrayal is that many Christians have found a convenient way to justify their own violent intentions. If Jesus hurt people with a whip, so the argument goes, then under the right conditions his followers may also use force. Of course, those conditions are rarely identified. Instead, Christians have all too often divorced Jesus’ actions from the issues that upset him, thus giving themselves free rein to respond violently in any situation. And by classifying the whip as a weapon, they’ve concluded that any weapon may be used, even ones infinitely more lethal and indiscriminate than a whip.” (Pg. 43).

Porterfield breaks the situation into different phases. The first phase is the preparation – “As Ched Myers notes, ‘Jesus’ initial visit to the temple was for reconnaissance.’ What he saw bothered him. Something was terribly wrong, and he was not going to let it go unchallenged.” (Pg. 45).

The lesson Porterfield attaches to the point is that Christlike peacemakers assess before they act. Always survey the scene to know what you are getting into.

Phase two is action. The crafting of the whip is the focus. “Notice that [the Gospel of John] explicitly states that Jesus made the whip once he was already in the temple.” (Pg. 47). And what is available – “rushes or reeds, akin to ration or wicker material.” (pg. 47) Porterfield took the liberty of crafting a whip from these materials. “…in the end, despite my hours of effort, my wicker-whip creations never could have injured anyone.” (Pg. 47). The point being that this was not something meant to be a weapon to be used against a person.

Secondly, “primitive whips, like the one Jesus made, are known to have been used in antiquity to herd such animals.” (pg. 49). Even the animals were not being hurt, but rather herded.

Third, the temple security show that Jesus didn’t hurt anyone. “If Jesus hurt anyone in the temple, then it is difficult to explain why the security personnel did not intervene.” (Pg. 49). Rome didn’t respond either. And given the concern that Pilate had for an insurrection, the Roman guards would be on constant lookout for signs of an insurrection. Yet, we hear of nothing – no response whatsoever – to Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple.

Fourth, Greek. I won’t go into detail here, but the point is that the Greek points to the animals being driven out – all of them. When your animals leave, your source of income, take a wild guess what you’ll do – go chase after them. And that’s what Porterfield argues.

The point for this is simple and is summed up in the second lesson that Porterfield makes for this chapter – Christlike peacemakers are not passive. “For Jesus, pacifism could never be equated with passives…Love compelled him to act. Love moved him to resist evil with every fiber of his being.

Lastly, we look at the third phase – the explanation. Jesus was nothing if he wasn’t consistent. When he acted, he always explained what he did because he was always teaching. And this act was no different. And with most things Jesus did, he either based his action on Scripture or was fulfilling prophecy of Scripture. In this case, Jesus was living into Isaiah 56 and Jeremiah 7. The point was that there was corruption in the temple and it was time to clean it out.

“When religion legitimizes injustice, it communicates to the world that God wills such evil. It makes God appear wicked. By marginalizing foreigners, the temple made God look like a tribal deity who was only concerned with the well-being of God’s own people. And by economically exploiting the poor, the temple portrayed God as yet another greedy ruler with an insatiable hunger for his subjects’ hard-earned money.” (Pg. 59-60).

Which leads to the final lesson for this chapter: Instead of injuring and destroying, Christlike peacemakers channel their zeal into acts that heal and restore. “Truly righteous zeal is constructive, not destructive. It lifts others up instead of tearing them down. Instead of injuring, it heals. Instead of destroying, it restores. And above all, truly righteous zeal is motivated by self-giving love, not other-consuming hatred.” (Pg. 61).

Tomorrow, I take a look at Tuesday of Holy Day through Porterfield’s lens.

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