I have been seeing this meme a lot lately. And while it has a point, I have been concerned about the message it sends. Because Jesus is about forgiveness, and much of what I have listened to this week has been on that subject- particularly the wonderful sermons David Jeremiah has given about Joseph's brothers the last few weeks. That would be a much longer story than I want to get into here, so if you want to see all the layers of the revelation of sins and their forgiveness, I suggest you go to Davidjeremiah.org and listen for yourself. It would be well worth your time.
In the meantime, though, let me get on with my observations. The meme suggests "flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip" is among Jesus' attributes- and I cannot argue that. But, what KIND of people did Jesus do this to? Well, to answer that, let me go back further in time a millenium or so- to the fall of Israel.
2Ki 17:4 And the king of Assyria found a conspiracy in Hoshea, in that he had sent messengers to So the king of Egypt, and had not offered tribute up to the king of Assyria, as year by year. And the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in a prison.
2Ki 17:5 And the king of Assyria went up into all the land, and he went up to Samaria and besieged it three years.
2Ki 17:6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and removed Israel to Assyria, and made them live in Halah, and in Habor, by the river Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
2Ki 17:7 And it was so because the sons of Israel had sinned against Jehovah their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and feared other gods,
2Ki 17:8 and walked in the statutes of the nations that Jehovah had dispossessed from the face of the sons of Israel, and of the kings of Israel that they made.
2Ki 17:9 And the sons of Israel secretly did the things which were not right against Jehovah their God, and built high places for themselves in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fortified city,
2Ki 17:10 and set up for themselves pillars and Asherahs on every high hill, and under every green tree;
2Ki 17:11 and burned incense there in all high places, like the nations that Jehovah had removed from their face; and did evil things to provoke Jehovah,
2Ki 17:12 and served the idols, of which Jehovah had said to them, You shall not do this thing.
2Ki 17:13 And Jehovah testified against Israel, and against Judah, by the hand of all His prophets, and every seer, saying, Turn back from your evil ways, and keep My commands, My statutes, according to all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by the hand of My servants the prophets.
2Ki 17:14 And they did not listen, and hardened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not remain faithful to Jehovah their God.
2Ki 17:15 And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He made with their fathers, and His testimonies that He testified against them, and went after the vain thing, and became vain, and after the nations that were around them, of whom Jehovah had commanded them not to do like them.
2Ki 17:16 And they left all the commands of Jehovah their God and made for themselves casted images, two calves, and made an Asherah, and bowed to all the host of the heavens, and served Baal,
2Ki 17:17 and caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire and divined, and used incantations, and sold themselves to do the evil in the eyes of Jehovah, to provoke Him,
2Ki 17:18 so that Jehovah was very angry against Israel, and turned them away from His face; not one was left, only the tribe of Judah by itself.
Now God could have destroyed Assyria, because they were very wicked (and indeed He did... later). But the rod was reserved for Israel, His own people. Why? Now go back to the meme and ask that question.
Mat 21:13 And He said to them, It has been written, "My house shall be called a house of prayer," but you have "made it a den of plunderers." Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11
So this violent act of Jesus was committed IN the Temple- where they KNEW BETTER. There is my problem with the meme. It gets used, in a way, by some people, to suggest Jesus is going to come down here and kick sinners' butt (which He will...later). But in this case, in this place, it is directed at those who KNEW how and why to worship God, and were doing anything but. The woman at the well, the adulteress about to be stoned, the demon possessed, He never yelled at any of them. Why?
One of the "contradictions" in the gospels which I never gave a lot of thought to is the thieves on the crosses next to Jesus. In Matthew 27 and Mark 15, they are said to have joined in the derision of the pharisee-led crowd against the suffering Jesus. But in Luke, the story has a twist:
Luk 23:35 And the people stood watching. And the rulers with them also scoffed, saying, He saved others; let Him save Himself, if this One is the Christ, the Elect of God.
Luk 23:36 And coming near, the soldiers also mocked Him and were offering vinegar to Him,
Luk 23:37 and saying, If You are the king of the Jews, save Yourself.
Luk 23:38 And also an inscription was written over Him, in Greek and Latin and Hebrew letters: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Luk 23:39 And one of the hanged criminals blasphemed Him, saying, If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.
Luk 23:40 But answering, the other rebuked him, saying, Do you not fear God, for you are in the same judgment?
Luk 23:41 And we indeed justly, for we receive things worthy of what we did. But this One did nothing wrong.
Luk 23:42 And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.
Luk 23:43 And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, Today you will be with Me in Paradise.
Why the difference here? Because of the passage of a little time. The time it took one criminal to go from joining the crowd in something HE didn't truly understand to hearing the object of that derision say, "Father, forgive them... THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO."
That second criminal EXPERIENCED God's forgiveness in that moment- and his heart turned. He saw a Man whose sufferings he very graphically understood, and recognized the Love it took in that moment to forgive. He saw in his heart that this was beyond love that man can muster... this had to be a Love Divine. And all it took to change one man's eternity was another man's forgiveness.
And that's why that meme bothers me. Because it takes a very small incident and directs it away from where it was intended (Those who know better and still reject God) and aims it at a group that Jesus never showed anything but compassion and forgiveness towards... sinners who would seek forgiveness if it is offered. Jesus could have rained fire down on the money changers (as John suggested once), or summoned 12 legions of Angels to get Him down from the cross, as He once told Peter. But on the money changers, He used only a knotted cord. Not much of an attack in the grand scheme of things.
Because there is far greater power in forgiveness. But as mortal men, sometimes we bring Jesus down to our level because we can't comprehend His level. For example, another preacher I heard found it interesting how many people can accept Jesus as dying for our sins, but the virgin birth it required? THAT can't be true. Why not? Because we can "accept" God in the magic genie way, but not in the nuts and bolts of mortal life. Guess what? God is big enough to do BOTH.
And one of those nuts and/or bolts is forgiveness. It took more power to forgive our sins than to split the Red Sea. He GAVE us a bit of THAT power. But do we use it, or long for the power to call down fire?