The Teachings of Jesus (Part 2 of 2)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matt. 5:9 (ESV)
John 2:14-17 – Overturned Tables
I would be dishonest to not address the passages that seem to contradict the viewpoint which I am advocating for. This passage about Jesus in the temple is one of two that are commonly brought up in a discussion about this topic because some claim that Jesus was also whipping the moneychangers. Let’s take a look at this passage:
“14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”(ESV)
I would like to start off by saying that if Jesus made the whips, and whipped the flawed human beings behind the tables…that would contradict everything that he preached about which is referenced in this chapter up until this point. It would also contradict his common responses to sin, which is to love and welcome the individual, not the sin; examples being woman caught in adultery, woman at the well, and the man hanging next to him when He was crucified. Whipping people would make Jesus seem like a hypocrite and a lunatic.
With that being said, I believe that Jesus made the whips like it is written, and drove out the animals with them. Whether he whipped the animals, or cracked the whip in the air to drive them out is not clear in the text itself. When it comes to the money changers, I believe that they would have chased their animals which were valuable assets to their business and livelihood, and were thus driven out with them. I do not believe that Jesus whipped the moneychangers in any way.
If Jesus whipped the moneychangers to drive them out – why did he not do the same to the ones selling the pigeons/doves? Instead, he addressed them after seemingly driving everyone else out and told them to take their things and leave. He did this because he obviously would not whip a bird, or throw their cages out of the temple while driving the other animals out, and if he were to whip all of the other animal merchants, he more than likely would have whipped the dove merchants, and released the doves afterward.
To believe that Jesus whipped the moneychangers would require the reader to abandon reason, and context.
Luke 22: 35-38 – Sell your Cloak, Buy a Sword
“35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”
This is another passage that is often seen in conflict with Christ’s message of nonviolence. The issue lies in Christ telling his disciples to buy swords. At the surface, in that verse alone (v.36), it would be the equivalent of Martin Luther King Jr., who grounded his civil rights movement on faith and nonviolence, instructing his closest men.. “Look guys, I know I said this before, but now, I need you guys to sell whatever you can to buy some guns to protect us”.
It just doesn’t make sense why Jesus would tell them to do this, especially at the end of his ministry, when he was accepting what would be done to him.
So, how can we explain this?
At this point, I’d like for us to re-read verse 37, which says:
“For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”(ESV)
This verse is in reference to a prophecy of the messiah that is found in Isaiah 53:12, and it explains to the reader why Christ would tell his disciples to buy swords; he needed to be counted among those that seemed to go against the law. If this is not clear, the next verse will clear it up more.
“And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”(ESV)
If Jesus was telling his group of 11 disciples (because Judas had betrayed him) to buy swords to defend themselves, or Him, how would two swords be enough? When the people that would oppress them would either be roman soldiers, or religious zealots…how could two swords be enough to protect 11 people?
Two swords was enough for the group to be seen as rebels. Two swords was enough for Jesus to be “counted among the transgressors”.
To imply that this passage is supportive of Christian self-defense is to completely ignore verse 37, as well as not carry verse 38 to its logical end. When a message and example of peace is so consistently given by Christ, this passage would go against that message if interpreted to mean that Christ told his followers to buy swords to defend themselves. Essentially, that argument would be making Christ a God who doesn’t stick to his own word when times get rough. Such a view makes Christ appear weak.
The Influence of Christ’s Example Of Nonviolence
There can be no doubt about the influence of Christ’s nonviolence teachings to the early church and beyond. As I will get to in later chapters, the New Testament writers, the early church, and many early church fathers all seemed to understand Christ’s nonviolence teachings, and sought to follow after them. Some leaders and theologians during our our time are teaching the same.
Martin Luther King, Jr. urged his followers to not use violence as a means of protest during his civil rights movement, and he based everything on his deeply held Christian faith. He said the following in his “I have a Dream” speech in 1963:
“But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
Followers of Christ were expected to go against their natural tendencies in order to serve and worship God. Followers of Christ are expected to do the same today.
If Christ is God, than His words are worth reading, and His example is worth following.
Berman, Mark. “‘I Forgive You.’ Relatives of Charleston Church Shooting Victims Address Dylann Roof.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 19 June 2015. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
Fletcher, Phillip. “The Good Muslim.” Gospel and Humanity. Phillipfletcher.org, 8 Dec. 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
King, Martin Luther, Jr. “Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech – American Rhetoric.” Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech. American Rhetoric, n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2016.
Morris, Leon. “The Gospel According to Matthew.” Ed. D. A. Carson. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1999. 100-01. Print.
“Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum.” Ancient Christian Texts. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Academic, 2009. 107. Print.
Shapiro, Joseph. “Amish Forgive School Shooter, Struggle with Grief.” NPR. NPR, 07 Oct. 2007. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.
Sprinkle, Preston (2013-08-01). Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence (Kindle Locations 2103-2107). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition
Wink, Walter (2003-04-01). Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way (Facets) (pp. 10-11). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
*The Works Referenced list above includes all resources from part 1 and two of Chapter Three*