Right sacrifice

        Making a whip of cords,
         he drove all of them out of the temple,
         both the sheep and the cattle.
                   —John 2.15

Let’s correct a few misconceptions
from your Sunday School comic book pictures.
First, he doesn’t use the whip on people.
He uses it to herd the animals out.

Second: he’s not mad. This isn’t an outburst.
(It takes time and patience to braid a whip.)
It’s carefully staged symbolic street theater: a protest.

Third: the moneychangers belong there.
They exchange Jewish coins, acceptable for offerings
or for buying sacrificial animals,
for the “unclean” Roman money that people carry.
It’s how you make a sacrifice.
And they aren’t overcharging.
Jesus isn’t criticizing “commercialization.”
He’s protesting sacrifice.
(Mark says he wouldn’t allow anyone
to carry a vessel through the temple.)

A deep instinct tells us our brokenness before God
can be fixed by transferring it elsewhere—
making another creature (or person, or race)
suffer for us. A little saving violence. A scapegoat.
Jesus disrupts our “sacrifices.”
(After all, we’re not making the sacrifice, the sheep is.)

He doesn’t use the whip to hurt people,
it’s to rescue the sheep.
“Stop this,” he says, on behalf of God.
“I will be the sheep.”

Our brokenness is accepted, as is.

God is the one who suffers.
We break all ten commandments
when we pretend otherwise.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

March 4, 2021

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