This is Alexander Smirnov’s dramatic interpretation of The Cleansing of the Temple. It’s an odd story, isn’t it? Some even point to it as an instance of Jesus losing his cool, lashing out in irritation.
But there’s much more to it than that.. The importance of the episode is signalled by the fact that within a week of this incident, Jesus is dead. Matthew, Mark, and Luke agree that this is the event that functioned as the “trigger” for Jesus’ death.” While most artistic renderings have a more dramatic depiction of Jesus thrashing the merchants, One reading of the Greek word pantas suggests that Jesus took some ropes he found lying around “to drive out the sheep and oxen, like any shepherd or cattle herder would do”, followed, no doubt, by their owners. The Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) do not make mention of a whip; and that Mark uses the word “drove”, as it was used elsewhere for the spirit “driving” Jesus into the desert, or Jesus “driving” out demons.
And this is the interpretation that Smirnov seems to approach in his stunning painting above. The figure of Christ is clothed in a violent red which would appear to reflect his rage. The whip is raised above his head and almost threatens to become a noose. The hapless money-changers, clutching their bags of ill-gotten gains like comic-book burglars, are driven to their knees like sheep,and are being herded from the holy place by the sheer force of Jesus’personality. Their bodies have almost lost their human shape, turning into something else, black, grotesque and beast-like.
It needs no imagination to think that these are the same respectable and substantial citizens who will soon turn the tables on the crusading Christ and hound him to his death.
Fr Barry Martin – 60 years a priest
Next Sunday we will be celebrating Fr Barry’s sixtieth anniversary as a priest in a special service at 10am. It is also Mothering or refreshment Sunday, so we can afford to celebrate with Barry even though we are in Lent.
Can you locate Barry in the photo below, taken on his ordination as a deacon?
Lenten Bible Study
Our Lenten study series based on materials prepared by St George’s College in Jerusalem continues. Please join us on-line by Zoom on Thursday mornings from 10-11am here. This week “The Sea”.