2:13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.

Passover is an intense time in the Jewish calendar, particularly in the city of Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day, every Jew longed to go “up to Jerusalem” to celebrate the memory of God’s miraculous liberation of the Hebrew people from bondage in Egypt. The air would have been filled with hope and expectation as the crowded city teemed with rumours of a coming liberator who would again set God’s people free from bondage.

Jesus walked into the heart of this maelstrom of politics, emotion, spirituality and intense religious fervour and performed the most provocative action imaginable.

John the Gospel writer has relocated Jesus’ attack on the temple from the end of Jesus’ life, where all the other Gospels locate it, to the beginning of his ministry, immediately following the story of the wedding at Cana which only John recounts. Jesus’ storming of the Jerusalem temple and his act of changing water into wine at the wedding at Cana, both point to the same dimension of Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus came to overturn anything that had become an obstacle to peoples’ awareness of the presence and action of God. The temple was instituted, not to be an end in itself, but to point to the hidden Presence of the Divine. The merchants and “money changers seated at their tables,” were a hindrance to the temple fulfilling its appointed purpose. They cluttered the temple with their commerce and inhibited the worshipers from finding that awareness of Presence they had come longing to encounter.

Merchants and moneychangers must be driven out, just as the thin water of stale tradition, must be transformed into an awareness of the indwelling Presence of the Spirit.

There is no evidence in any of the accounts of this temple story that Jesus acted out of anger. Rather, he was consciously and intentionally enacting a parable that captured the nature of his ministry. This embodied teaching said, “Clear away the clutter. Remove those things that cause you to become desensitized to the subtle Divine Presence imbuing all of life”. It is the same message John the Baptist proclaimed when he quoted the prophet Isaiah saying,

I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’ (John 1:23)

What needs to be driven out of my life? What crooked ways need to be made “straight”? What habits do I need to overturn in order to open more deeply conscious of the beauty and mystery of life?