Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer for all the nations?' But you have made it a den of robbers." And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
There's a meme I see on the internet every so often that goes something like this: When someone asks you "What Would Jesus Do?" Remind them that flipping over tables and breaking out whips is always a possibility.
While in this passage we do indeed see Jesus get this angry, we need to remember what it was that made Jesus angry. In her book "Entering the Passion of Jesus" author, scholar and seminary professor Amy-Jill Levine posits that Jesus is angry because people have been mocking the house of God with their behavior. They come to the temple because they think it makes them look good to others, because they think that by making a sacrifice and donating some money they'll be all set. Then they make promises about how they will live their lives that they have no intention of keeping.
We struggle with the same thing when going to church today - we praise God for one hour every Sunday then forget to live out the promises we made throughout the rest of the week. In doing so we make the house of God a "den of robbers." Jesus indicted people for it then, and he indicts us for it now.
In order to truly follow Jesus we need to get angry about the things he got angry about - and channel that anger into fights for justice. We need to work to dismantle the systems of this world that keep people oppressed. We need to repent of our participation in these systems, we need to vote for people who will do the work of making the world a better place, we need to advocate for the rights of the least among us, and we need to encourage those who are lost in apathy to wake up and do their part. Fighting for justice isn't easy, but it is what Jesus would do.
(P.S. If you would like to read more on this topic my entire sermon on this passage can be found here.)
God of righteous anger, help us to see what is worth getting angry about in this world and what isn't. Help us to see what we can do to change the things that should anger us. Help us fight for justice, even when it's hard. Amen.