Just when we were getting a run at MK, back they take us to JN. Oh, well!
It's not the function of MMK to debate textual issues, but in my view, the cleansing of the Temple makes better sense, theologically & liturgically, as climax to Palm Sunday. Even if it ends our stage managed procession on a disruptive note. Isn't our God the God of Disruption? I'll want to preach it that way.
Taking Jesus seriously inevitably means that we, too, will clash with those who, like some church heavies, survive on, thrive on the preservation of the status-quo, can be counted on to run with the (any) government. No stirrers welcome! Malina & Rohrbaugh [Social-Science Commentary on the Gospel of John, Fortress, '98, p.75] refer to the temple as ' the central shrine of political religion in Jerusalem'] I like it. Do we have such a shrine, central or otherwise?
For us, the use of church precincts may not be as much an issue as other mis-applications of God- energy, or perhaps failing to apply it at all. Are there issues we hope will go away if we don't do anything about them? Whereas discerning (in the biblical sense) members of the Body of Christ may be alert if not alarmed to the point of taking some necessary stand, cleansing some aspect of church life. In Australia, though two bishops I know of seem unaware their particular temple is in need of cleansing when they voice support for P.M. Howard & George Dubya's 'coalition of the willing' against Iraq, I'm heartened at the strong & consistent opposition to war- mongering from discerning grass roots church members across the board. My own bishop, I'm glad to say, has taken a more prophetic role against such strutting the stage & banging the war drum. It was good, too, to hear a strong sermon in the USA last year calling for 'an end to this madness'.
Those who think more conservatively (left brain rather than right brained Christianity?) may be tempted to latch onto Jesus' length of rope (from the donkey?) to justify such things as pre-emptive strikes, collateral damage...all that kind of thing. But there's no way we can use Jesus honestly to support that position. If we want a parallel, why not join him (figuratively) in taking a length of rope to the multi-national traders, global conglomerates, international banking forces, etc., fattening on the little people of the world's temples as the traders & church officials who sanctioned them did in Jesus' day? Hard, yes, but so was riding into the eye of the storm at the Temple, & beyond it, the Passion.
Ironically, the Jewish leaders ask Jesus for a sign, unable to see that he himself is the sign of God's judgment on what they are doing, how they are acting. To proceed the way they are going is to be their own judges! How about forsaking our pews - as many have done already, few showing any sign of coming back - and working the margins where the real debate is? Becoming God's sign of God's love out there? Mind you, the other side of the coin of God's love is God's judgment, & sometimes we need to be that flip-side as Jesus is in the Temple that day. Who will be a donkey's rope for Jesus?
When Jesus challenges them with his statement that he'll 'raise up this temple in three days', they run for cover behind arithmetic! '46 years...' Have we developed similar tactics to avoid the real Jesus issues? What do we hide behind? Donkeys?