Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Matthew 21:12-17: Violence of a Peacemaker
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?” And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. (Matthew 21:12-17)

At the end of Jesus’ earthly existence, Matthew mentions two events in the Temple of Jerusalem, the center of Israel’s religion. In them, Jesus implicitly criticizes a certain way of placing oneself before God and shows an alternative.

Some are shocked at the violence of Jesus in casting out the sellers, so dramatically different from the view of him as “gentle and humble of heart.” Others find in it a justification for a “revolutionary Jesus.” Both positions misunderstand what is going on. The verb “to drive or cast out” is normally used in the gospels to describe the exorcism of unclean spirits. In the wake of the prophets, Jesus makes a provocative symbolic statement. Neither violence against persons nor a literal attempt to destroy the sanctuary, his act expresses rejection of a system of worship too linked to human interests that distract people from what really matters.

What really does matter is shown in the second part of the text. The ill and the deformed were normally prohibited from entering the Temple (2 Samuel 5:8). Jesus welcomes and heals them. He thus reveals the image of a God who, far from separating the “impure” from the “pure,” accepts everyone, starting with the outcasts. In this way the Temple finds its true calling, that of being “a house of prayer for all” (Mark 11:17). And other marginalized beings express the importance of what is happening: little children, who supposedly are unfamiliar with the Bible but who grasp the truth of Jesus by a kind of intuition.

Jesus thus becomes, by his acts, the locus of a new presence of God at the heart of the world. Saint John’s version of the story (2:13-22) emphasizes this dimension, anticipating the destruction of the Temple by the Romans and the resurrection of Jesus, pole of a universal communion.

- Where have I seen love expressed by clear and powerful words and acts?

- How can we simplify the life of our communities to show what really matters? How can we make room for disregarded people, for listening to children?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 June 2024