The Doves are in the Details

In a previous article, I discussed how all of Jesus’ miracles were outwardly focused, and never benefited Himself. This was in contrast to Muhammad, whose miracle of the Qur’an often made his life on earth more pleasant. As I continue to study and read the gospels, there is another subtly different aspect to this phenomenon. Not only did Jesus never perform any miracles to make his human life any easier, he never did anything, whether miracle or mundane, that resulted in direct harm to others.

The aspect of Jesus’ miracles never benefiting Himself while also not performing any action harming others might seem to be two sides of the same coin, but is there any evidence of this? While reading the gospels, I was intrigued by the passage of Jesus cleansing the temple of moneychangers. I have heard people inappropriately cite this episode as proof of Jesus being angry, and therefore sinning. Of course this is a erroneous conclusion, as being angry is not in itself a sin (Ephesians 4:26).

Yet let’s probe a bit deeper by imagining an outraged Jesus as He overturned the tables of those selling the sacrificial animals. Of course, on further inspection, we note His zeal for the Father was not self-motivated, but was rather an indictment against the routine abuse of God’s law for profit. Not only that, the business was going on right in the outer court of the temple, where the God-fearing Gentiles would come to worship. Moreover, remember that the temple is the place specifically built to remind the Israelites of God’s holiness.

Yet the question remains of whether Jesus financially hurt those selling the animals. Didn’t the innocent fellow selling the sheep or oxen or doves get shafted as Jesus chased all the animals away? Interestingly enough, the Bible has an odd detail nestled within a broader passage that addresses this. Consider the larger animals, such as the sheep and oxen. The moneychanger would not lose his animal, as certainly the businessmen could track down a meandering cow or sheep after it had been set loose. The doves are a different story though. Once the doves are let loose, they will fly away, never to be corralled again. If Jesus flipped over tables, scaring the doves away, he financially hurts someone else, and perhaps it could be argued this was harming others. So let’s read John 2 carefully.

14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”

I have read John 2 dozens of times and never noticed this. He drives the owners out of the temple with their sheep and oxen They could coral them easily enough. However, those with the doves he orders to leave. They are given the opportunity, (and apparently took it) to take them away of their own volition. In this way, the dove sellers were not directly hit with a loss of merchandise.

It’s possible that I might be making more out of this passage than is there, but I don’t think so. The gospels contain the most unusual details, and I believe they are there for a reason. As the Word of God, the depth of the Bible is never ending. Tucked away as a seemingly irrelevant detail, here we see yet another example of Jesus’ way of operating. It’s true this article doesn’t deal directly with Islam, but it just expands on an aspect of who Jesus is when considering how His actions affected others.

Even in this indignant state of removing the sacrificial animals, he does so in such a way as to avoid harming others. This is the Jesus whose actions, whether miraculous or mundane, always point outwardly, and never occur for his own self-satisfaction.

“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

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