Looking at the stories of the prophets, I realized that these were some fiercely devoted guys. Some personally slew people who they saw as enemies of God, some called down lightening to smite enemies of God, and some called for people to come down with a disease. Looking at the stories of King David, he had a serious body count adding up and it wasn’t limited to enemies. In comparison, Jesus might seem like something of a weakling for not having any blood on his hands – but then again, that’s why he’s the savior.
So when I talk about Jesus’ example in his public ministry, people often feel the need to defend his rather pacifistic demeanor by bringing up the cleansing of the temple as proof that in his righteous anger he was a serious threat. They might also bring up the verse that says that heaven’s army of angels are at his order – if he wanted to he could have called them down and destroyed the Romans but he didn’t because of some unknown reason for his ways are higher than ours.
It doesn’t matter than in other stories when the crowed wanted to make Jesus king that he would just slip away. It doesn’t matter that when one of the disciples said “Hey! This town just disrespected you! Let’s show them who you really are and call down fire from heaven to teach them a lesson!” that Jesus said “No, let’s just move on to the next town instead.” It doesn’t matter that Jesus annoyed the religious leaders of his day by going to party with the biggest sinners of his day.
This is Jesus – the Lord of lords and the King of kings! He is the son of God! The same God that taught Egypt a thing or two when He sent the ten plagues upon them and even then He hadn’t finished using the Israelites as implements of his judgement on the Canaanites. Surely he’s a chip off of the old block? Certainly the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!
And yet … Jesus could have raised an army of men – but he attracted crowds including women. Jesus could have joined the rebels and helped them to resist to the Romans – but he didn’t offer them any resistance when he was arrested, tried, beaten, or crucified. To our way of thinking, to prove one’s toughness, it is necessary to beat up the strongest or baddest guy in the place so that everyone else will know that it would be unwise to challenge us. But Jesus’ plan is this: “I know that my father has given me complete authority to do anything I want, but I lay it down. I won’t call for fire to destroy your town or lightening to take your life. I will control myself and limit myself for your sake.” That’s Jesus nine times out of ten.
It must be our own way of thinking that is the flaw – that self-control and limitation is weakness and fighting and outpouring of anger is strength. We point to the cleansing of the temple as if that’s how Jesus really, truly was and in all the instances where he wasn’t like that on the outside, that’s something like what was going on inside. I just find it an odd thing to say: “Jesus’ passion for the temple burns when he cleanses it … but he also prophesied that in three days not a stone will be standing…” Cleaning out the money changers today does not prevent them from returning tomorrow or the day after. Is it the temple or something else that he’s zealous for?
You see, every generation of humanity has happened to interpret Jesus through their own understanding. Different generations had different pieces of information. We need to consider what pieces are missing from the picture of Jesus and to do our best not to try to fill in the missing pieces with our own ideas about what should be there based upon what we can see.