Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
"Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.
At this the Jews answered and said to him,
"What sign can you show us for doing this?"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up."
The Jews said,
"This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,
and you will raise it up in three days?"
But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
Therefore, when he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered that he had said this,
and they came to believe the Scripture
and the word Jesus had spoken.While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
many began to believe in his name
when they saw the signs he was doing.
But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all,
and did not need anyone to testify about human nature.
He himself understood it well.
In fourth grade, my class and I read this Gospel (John 2:13-25) in Catholic school. And I was honestly confused by Jesus’ behavior.
So I raised my hand. “Jesus gets angry and throws the furniture around,” I asked earnestly. “Isn’t that . . . well . . . sort of a sinful thing to do?”
My teacher widened her eyes. “Be careful,” she intoned, probably not knowing how to answer. Yet as a little girl I was instantly afraid of my own question. Was I sinning just by asking? Would a lightning bolt zap me out of my desk, leaving only a smoking pile of blue plaid?
It’s taken me a while to get here, but I can now see the difference between the question I asked and, say, the people selling goods in the temple. My question was motivated by a sincere desire to understand; the people in the temple were motivated by a love of commerce over the sacred. As we see in the Gospel, the latter does call for righteous anger. Jesus probably welcomed my question as a part of my young effort to wrestle with and claim a life of faith.
Since then, I’ve had to wrestle with other difficult questions. When I had a miscarriage right after an ectopic pregnancy, I couldn’t understand how God could let a second devastating loss happen to me. I was confused and angry. And I knew that it was useless to hide this anger because He would see it anyhow. So I expressed my feelings, this time without fear I’d be struck by lightning. And it turned out that being upfront about my anger was a necessary step in moving beyond it and in ultimately recovering my understanding of a God who loves me.
So I think the last sentences of today’s Gospel are good to commit to memory. Jesus doesn’t need anyone to tell Him about human nature, about our confusion and anger and grief, because He already understands it well. And as we struggle with hard questions about God and about ourselves, it’s a relief to know that we can be totally up-front with Him. We have nothing to lose, and a lot of understanding to gain.
What’s a part of your own human nature that you feel hesitant to share with God? Be up-front about it in prayer, resting in the confidence that God already knows all about it.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses and Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos. You can find out more about her here.