What would Jesus protest about?
One of the top news stories has to do with the protests that began on Wall Street now spreading throughout the world, especially in European countries like Italy and London. One of the protesters apparently dressed up as a Jesus with the placard: ‘I threw the moneylenders out for a reason!’
So it got me thinking: what did Jesus really protest about when he marched into the temple and threw out the money-changers? Was it really because they were corrupt or greedy or financially unscrupulous? Is this a parallel situation to the protests happening around the world against corporate greed?
A closer look at the Gospel accounts in Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 2 would probably cause us to think again.
In short, by overturning the commerce of money-changers, Jesus was actually overturning the very fabric of Jewish temple worship. Nothing in the texts identify Jesus’ anger as directed against greed or financial dishonesty. In fact, the money-changers (note: not “money-lenders”) and those selling animals were doing the public a service. Without them, it was impossible for travelling pilgrims to come and offer sacrifices at the temple.
So Jesus kicking up a storm over their presence in the outer court (the court of the Gentiles) was a visual statement declaring two radical things: firstly, that the old order of temple worship was over. John 2 especially makes it clear: Jesus is the new temple. Then secondly as a related point, Jesus quotes the Old Testament that declares the goal of the temple is to be a house of prayer for “all nations” (Isaiah 56:7). By overturning and destroying the very system of Jewish temple worship which divided Jews from Gentiles (and here furthermore was actually preventing Gentiles from worshipping in their designated space), Jesus was declaring a new age when worship would equally be available to all, for he himself would be that temple in whose body Jew and Gentile are radically united as one (Ephesians 3).
So what would Jesus protest against?
If I could be so daring to suggest, I believe Jesus would protest in Italy at the Vatican. More than that, he’d protest in any place where ‘church’, sacred buildings, and ‘religion’ eclipsed the reality of Jesus being the one and only perfect meeting place between God and people. He’d also protest against any religious system that continued to separate God’s people based on culture, ethnicity, gender, tradition, experience, or education.
Jesus is the true temple. He’s come to bring a radical worship through his death and resurrection and by his Spirit (see John 4). This temple, unlike the Jewish temple, unites rather than divides. By his heavenly session and his Spirit of intercession, we truly have a ‘house of prayer’ in which we dwell and can freely relate to God our Father.