Here we continue from Part 1 of POLITICS, RELIGION, AND THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST JESUS. In Part 1, we examined the political system. In Part 2, we will consider how Jesus threatened that system.
When modern Christians reflect upon the example of Christ Jesus, we usually don’t think of Him as a revolutionary. Even though Jesus entered Jerusalem as a king on a donkey, we accept the doctrine that Christ Jesus died upon cross in payment for our sins, that He had not come to establish a new government. We have the advantage of hindsight. Jesus’ executioners did not know that he planned to be sacrifice. What did they believe? In John 11, the Bible tells us of the death and the resurrection of man named Lazarus by Jesus. In the same chapter, the Bible also tells us how the chief priests and the Pharisees reacted.
John 11:45-53 English Standard Version (ESV)
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
John 7:40-43 describes the divisions Jesus created among the Jews. Some saw Him as the Messiah. Others did not, but it was not just about miracles. John 2:13-22 describes Jesus throwing the moneychangers and the merchants out of the temple. Similarly, Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, and Luke 19:45-48 describe Jesus entering the temple and driving out all those who were buying and selling. In fact, the differences between the timing of John’s Gospel from the others suggest Jesus threw the moneychangers and the merchants out of the temple more than once. Why did He do that? There are several reasons.
- The temple was the House of God. Even though the moneychangers and the merchants were helping people to pay their temple taxes and selling the people the animals they needed for their sacrifices, they were still using the temple inappropriately for personal gain (from here).
- The moneychangers were robbing the people.
The high priest ordered that only Tyrian shekels would be accepted for the annual half-shekel Temple tax because they contained a higher percentage of silver, so the money changers exchanged unacceptable coins for these shekels. Of course, they extracted a profit, sometimes much more than the law allowed. (from here)
- The merchants were robbing the people by charging excessively for animals suitable for sacrifice (from here).
In his Commentary, Matthew Henry supports all three reasons.
What was the consequence? Observe what Luke had to say about the incident as he describes it.
Luke 19:45-48 Good News Translation (GNT)
Jesus Goes to the Temple
45 Then Jesus went into the Temple and began to drive out the merchants, 46 saying to them, “It is written in the Scriptures that God said, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer.’ But you have turned it into a hideout for thieves!”
47 Every day Jesus taught in the Temple. The chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the leaders of the people wanted to kill him, 48 but they could not find a way to do it, because all the people kept listening to him, not wanting to miss a single word.
As we noted in Part 1, Rome allowed Judea to exist as a theocracy. Moreover, the Romans and the Sanhedrin worked closely together. Thus, when Jesus challenged the authority of the priests to operate the temple, He threatened the political system. Because those in authority wanted to retain their power, they considered Jesus a political threat. They wanted Him dead.
Because it was the right thing to do — because His Father wanted Him to do it — Jesus did the right thing. When He did so, Jesus challenged the political authorities. Therefore, if we are to follow the example of Jesus, when our rulers do wrong, we must be prepared to correct those who rule over us.