Jesus rejects power that dehumanizes and exploits. In literally clearing out the Temple, Jesus creates for us space for two things.
First, his dramatic reaction to what was going on in God’s holy space can help us understand racism in the context of power. Jesus did not flip the tables because of prejudices, or the actions of particular merchants, or the privileges the sacrificial system awarded some people. Rather, he was enraged by an entire system that benefited a few precisely by taking advantage of many others. He was disgusted that this power masked itself in the name of upholding the religious law. Power is deceptive like that and Jesus wants none of it. He names it and denounces it unequivocally.Second, Jesus creates space for anger and disruption in answering the call to justice. While his entire ministry is an invitation to reimagine the power of a life lived in right relationship with God and others, in the Temple he is all about disruption. Jesus is angry. Turning over tables. Shutting it down. No more business as usual. No justice, no peace. Since the exploitative and deceitful power of racism is baked into just about every system that makes our communal lives possible, resisting it will require some disruption, some interruption, some very tough love.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.” Jesus doesn’t walk away from the chaos he creates in disrupting power. Rather he doubles down in his promise to correct it with a new kind power—a power with and for others rather than over them.
- What power needs to be corrected in our own lives?
- What might our resistance to disruptive actions unfolding around us tell us about our relationship to exploitative power?
- How can we make space for disruption?
Maureen H. O’Connell, Ph.D. is associate professor of religion and theology at La Salle University in Philadelphia.