Expecting the Unexpected
The unexpected is what keeps sports fans watching games. The unexpected is what makes jokes funny. The unexpected gives us something to talk about, because "You'll never guess what so-and-so did." We like the unexpected sometimes. Life would get pretty boring if you always knew what was going to happen next. And yet we crave stability. For the most part we live like we expect things to be the same today as they were yesterday. We expect to wake up tomorrow morning just like we did today. When bad things happen and life changes for the worse, we long for the good old days because we believe things were more predictable back then. We believe life should make sense. So should God.
And that is where today’s Gospel text comes in. None of those people in the temple expected the chaos of that day. They expected everything to go on as it always had every Passover before. The merchants never thought that some guy from out of town named Jesus would storm in to drive out the merchants and livestock as if they were a bunch of evil spirits. That had never happened before. And here is where things start hitting us. Because when Jesus drives the merchants out of the temple, he does more than upset their tables—Jesus upsets us a bit, too. This does not fit in to the type of Jesus most people like to hear about or talk about. Yes, the Lord is angry in this text. And it is a righteous and holy anger. Zeal for God’s house consumes Jesus. The temple merchants thought they were safe, even though they persisted in going their own way apart from the Lord—and worse, distracted people from their own devotion to the Lord. They never expected God to show God’s zeal and wrath through Jesus.
Seeing that Jesus does not hide from conflict with the wicked, but is consumed with zeal for God’s house and for those who were being taken advantage of, makes our devotion to the Lord look all the worse—because we have been devoted to ourselves, our money, our friendships in this world that is passing away. We would prefer to go back a few verses in John 2 and hear about gentle and kind Jesus who makes 180 gallons of water into really great wine for a wedding reception. Or move ahead into John 3, where Jesus talks about birth into the Kingdom of God through water and the Spirit. There we hear Jesus say that he has not come into the world to condemn it but to save it. Yet today we find Jesus violently rebuking those who were taking advantage of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed. We would rather not see this Jesus—and yet they are two sides of the same Savior Jesus.
We seldom understand unexpected events at the time they occur. The disciples do not understand all that Jesus said and did on that day in the temple either. That understanding only came with maturity—as John notes, “After Jesus was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scriptures and the words that Jesus had spoken." The Lord grant that we all would reach to full maturity in the knowledge of the Son of God as we expect the unexpected!
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