Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple: Where Wrath and Mercy Meet

Part of my PhD work has been in the Major Prophets and Luke-Acts. In revising I came across something mind-blowingly cool in Jesus’ cleansing of the temple in Luke 19:45-46.

As he drives out the traders, he combines quotations from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. To anyone familiar with those texts we’d have to say, on the face of it, those two texts don’t belong together.

Isaiah 56:1-8 speaks to a day of restoration, when foreigners will be welcomed into God’s temple and given an enduring name. They will be brought to God’s holy mountain, and there will be great joy as God’s house is called a ‘house of prayer for all nations.’ It speaks of a great joyous restorative in-gathering.

Jeremiah 7 on the other hand is a word of judgement. The people are called to reform their ways, to put away their oppression, and to stop basing their security on the fact the temple exists. God’s anger and wrath will be poured out because of the people’s idolatry and injustice. This is a judgement text.

So, back to Luke 19:45-46, we find Jesus announcing that the temple was to be a house of prayer for all nations, but instead it stands as a den of robbers. Jesus’ triumphal entry brings together a word of salvation and a word of judgement in the same breath. As we anticipate where this story is heading we may ask the question, ‘how will Jesus bring salvation through judgement? How can wrath and mercy meet?’ And for those of us who know where the story is headed we know that the cross will provide the answer to this apparent riddle.

Cool, no!?

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