In today’s Gospel (John 2: 13-25) we have the story of Jesus going into the temple of Jerusalem and throwing out those who were buying and selling and changing coins. It was an act of force, but not of violence. Very often people have justified violence in the name of God. This was not the way of Jesus. As we pray for Christians who are persecuted in parts of the world where others justify their violence by invoking God, let us reflect on Pope Benedict’s words about the “cleansing of the temple” found in the second volume of his book Jesus of Nazareth.
But what about Jesus? Was he a Zealot? Was the cleansing of the Temple a summons to political revolution? Jesus’ whole ministry and his message—from the temptations in the desert, his baptism in the Jordan, the Sermon on the Mount, right up to the parable of the Last Judgment (Mt 25) and his response to Peter’s confession—point in a radically different direction…. No; violent revolution, killing others in God’s name, was not his way. His “zeal” for the kingdom of God took quite a different form. …
[Z]eal for God’s house leads him to the Passion, to the Cross. This is the fundamental transformation that Jesus brought to the theme of zeal. The “zeal” that would serve God through violence he transformed into the zeal of the Cross. Thus he definitively established the criterion for true zeal—the zeal of self-giving love. This zeal must become the Christian’s goal….
“The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them” (Mt 21:14). In contrast to the cattle-trading and money-changing, Jesus brings his healing goodness. This is the true cleansing of the Temple. Jesus does not come as a destroyer. He does not come bearing the sword of the revolutionary. He comes with the gift of healing. He turns toward those who, because of their afflictions, have been driven to the margins of life and society. He reveals God as the one who loves and his power as the power of love.