What Would Jesus Do? Turn over tables? Really?

“When someone asks you ‘think about what Jesus would do’, remember that a valid option is to make a whip and turn over tables” 

I’ve seen this plastered all over Facebook recently. The quote is kind of cute and funny–even makes you think.

Except, it is simplistic at best–and disingenuous at its worst.

Simplistic: Jesus sees injustice so he acts violently. This completely takes the cleansing of the Temple out of its literary-historical context. As Messiah (and as God) Jesus had the authority to cleanse the Temple. It was a demonstration of Messianic identity. It was also the precursor of the final cleansing of the Temple in 70 AD.

The cursing of the fig tree and temple cleansing were demonstrations of God’s judgment upon Israel (see Malachi 3:1-3).

I don’t think any of us can claim Jesus’ authority to do this sort of thing.

Jesus also observed the Mosaic law, walked most everywhere…or rode a donkey…followed his father’s line of business until he was around 30–became an itinerant preaching rabbi who miraculously healed people and raised the dead–are you still ready to ask WWJD?

Disingenuous: Why do we choose this scene over say, Jesus refusing to defend himself, refusing to open his mouth, and allowing himself to be led to crucifixion? Or following his clear teachings of “turning the other cheek” or his extending mercy to a woman guilty of a capital crime? Or loving on and associating with those who were the complete outcast (socially and religiously).

We like the Temple cleansing example because it gives us the right to be righteously indignant and to react aggressively (verbally or emotionally) and to devastate our opponents.

The question is wrong to begin with.

Yes, he has left us an example to follow. However, it is more than simply following a few moral guidelines or trying to imitate a minimal amount of examples recorded in the gospels. You have to go beneath the actions and capture the intent (which, after all, was one of his stated points in the Sermon on the Mount–Matthew 5:21-22, 27-30, 33-37).

Paul speaks of having the “mind of Christ.” This is Spirit work (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is a living thing–for God to develop within us the heart and mindset of the Messiah: a grace-filled attitude that embodies the character of Jesus as described in Philippians 2–the kenosis or self-emptying–not seeking his own will and rights but being willing to give up what was rightfully his; to seek out the highest good for others.

Perhaps a better question might be: What does it mean to empty myself in this particular situation in order to demonstrate the mind of Christ? Not very catchy to be sure, but…

Something to think about.


About Darryl Willis

Darryl has been working for non-profits for over 36 years. His current work takes him to Ukraine several times a year. He has fallen in love with the country and the people. Darryl writes poetry and his work has appeared in several online and print journals.
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