Jesus. Oh what a wonderful name. Just the name alone gives ya all warm fuzzies and stuff like that. We like talking about the love of Jesus. We like speaking about how we’re to show the love of Jesus. We talk about how Jesus truly gives us peace today and makes us better people. Back in the 90’s there was the WWJD thing with the bracelets and the shirts and bumper stickers. Each one to remind us to think What Would Jesus Do? (knocking WWJD a bit, but I know some Goldy Christian people who truly live out this idea and to that I commend them, it’s not just a article of clothing but truly a lifestyle I respect).
Apparently Jesus came with a sword and a whip to not only not bring peace but to beat the snot out of people defiling the Temple in Jerusalem with souvenirs.
I came across this little gem in my devotions this morning:
“Do not suppose I have come to bring peace to earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
Well that don’t make no sense at all. Jesus is love and peace and warm fuzzy and crud like that, right? What do you mean he came with a sword? Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that he will turn children against parents and parents against children. Dude. Harsh. Not just that but enemies will become family (and we’re not talking frenemies either…actual familial relationship going on here). What is going on? This isn’t the Jesus meek and mild we heard about in Sunday school, in our songs, or even in sermons.
Jesus also was a total bad… donkey…when He came into Jerusalem and visited the Temple. The Temple was to be a place of worshiping God and focusing on Him. Instead people had set up shop in the courts and were selling souvenirs, exchanging money, and had a good deal on pigeons and sheep for sacrifices. This didn’t go over all to well with Jesus.
“So He (Jesus) made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” John 2:15
Again, not so meek and mild.
Yet in this slice and dice method of ministry, Jesus also brought about His grace and love. Sounds a bit weird to have a sword and whip as a way to do grace and love. But it’s true.
The money changers were taking Roman coins, which had the image of Caesar on it (the Jewish people didn’t allow for graven images in Judaism) and exchanged it for money more suitable to offer money to God. This was a form of worshiping God. It was on the terms of the money changers though. And the sheep and cattle and what not in the courts were being sold were to be used in sacrifices to God, also a form of worship. The thing is, is that the people were to bring their first fruits to God, the best of their sheep or cattle or if they couldn’t afford it, two birds. Instead, this was outsourced to the Wal-Mart version of worship, they could pick and choose which one they wanted to use for worship.
And the whole coming as a sword thing. Yeah. Not the image we like of the gentle Jesus standing at the door and knocking, looking at clean hippie like. Jesus brought a message that is scandalous. He came as the only Truth in order to be known, and He came with exclusivity in coming before God.
In Jesus’ slice and dice ministry method, He gave room for grace to be found. Clearing the temple courts made it possible for even the poorest person not to feel the guilt of coming before God. Jesus made room for all who were able to come to God, not just those who could afford to change their money or buy the better.
Same with the sword thing. Jesus offers grace in the midst of struggle. People will not like those who are followers of Jesus because for the very fact of that exclusivity and, well I will admit, past blunders, mistakes, and down right un-Christlike behavior. And yet grace is found when enemies become family. Grace is found when the definition of family is changed from biological and marital to divinely connected because of God.
This is the scandal of grace. The grace which Jesus sliced and diced for us and eventually died so that we can fully receive it. In the same way, we are to live it. Now, don’t go making whips out of cords or walking around with swords. But make room. Make room for others to come forward to experience and know the grace of God through Jesus.
Where do you need to make room for grace?