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..." John 2:15
There is no small amount of controversy about John's description of the cleansing of the temple in John chapter 2. First there is the issue of it being out of sync with the descriptions in the Synoptic gospels. This disconnect has paved the way for a number of critics, both past and present, to question the inerrancy of scripture. The 'fix' for this is to present this instance as the first of two cleansings of the temple -- one at the beginning and one at the end of his ministry.
Neither of these positions satisfactorily resolves the issue for me. In fact, looking at the gospel of John reveals there are so many instances where John records events and conversations that are absent from the other gospels ( i.e. the upper room discourse, the conversation with Peter by the side of the sea, etc) and that don't fit a smooth chronological sequence. And in each case, from my point of view at least, John connects elements in these passages to each other in such a way as to give us a uniquely rich window into the teaching and ministry of Jesus.
So why not here?
In my research of this passage I came across the following quote from Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute. And while I cannot say I am a fan of, or even a follower of, his The Bible Answer Man program, I believe he hits the nail on the head with his explanation for the "discrepancy" in these accounts. (emphasis is mine)
"...even a cursory reading reveals, John not only kairologically (see below) orders his gospel by theme (e.g., seven signs, seven-day opening, seven-day account of the passion, etc.) but presents a more highly developed Christology than that offered in the Synoptics. As such, John says that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (1:14), which fulfills the Old Testament promise that God’s glory would again return to His temple (e.g., Malachi 3:1). Moreover, John reinterprets the meaning of Passover by revealing Jesus as the quintessential Passover lamb (John 1:29, 36). As such, it could be logically (and charitably) surmised that John might introduce his account of Christ’s temple cleansing early in his gospel narrative—and within a context in which Jesus is revealed as the substance that fulfills the types and shadows of temple, priest, and sacrifice. While such a notion does not set well with a fundamentalist reading of literature, it accords well with a nuanced and highly sophisticated reckoning of time particular to the ancients (i.e. a kairological interpretation, which reckons time not in terms of our familiar chronological ordering but in terms of a quality of purpose in which an event is said to occur at “just the right time” [cf. Genesis 1 and 2]). In other words, even if there was only one historical temple cleansing, one might logically assume that John communicates it kairologically as opposed to chronologically."
Here is the "kairologically" connection for me...
This event directly follows the description of Jesus' first miracle at the wedding in Cana (also conspicuously absent from the other gospels). In that instance, a tentative, possibly even reluctant, Jesus is thrust into the limelight by his mother and turns water into wine. In John's description of the events in the temple, you have a very different picture of Jesus. Here he is determined, confident, and forcefully going "about his Father's work."
There is no reluctance or hesitancy here. In fact, Jesus takes the time to make a scourge of cords to cleanse the area of the merchandisers of sacrifices. At Cana he used what was available, the stone water pots and water. At the temple, he constructs what is necessary to complete the task. In Barnes' Notes on the Bible there is the following discription of what Jesus made, "A scourge - A whip. Of small cords ...the original word implies that these "cords" were made of twisted "rushes" or "reeds" - probably the ancient material for making ropes."
In other words, Jesus seems to have stopped in the courtyard -- in the midst of all the noise and chaos of the surging crowds, looking to change money and purchase sacrifices, and surrounded by the cacophony of lowing cattle and bleating sheep --and painstakingly makes a scourge, a whip, from the materials that were at hand...rushes that formed the animals' beds and ropes used to tether them.
This obviously took no small amount of time and shouts intentionality, determination and mature focus.
For me this connection between the reluctance of Jesus' first miracle and the boldness of his cleansing of the temple, is John's attempt to reinforce Jesus' growth and development in his ministry. Jesus grew in his understanding of the Father's intention for him. He matured into the ministry and calling that he had received. His confidence, conviction and assurance developed over time. And he embraced an ever unfolding appreciation of what it meant to be the Anointed one, the the Christ, the Lamb of God.
And in the end, he conquered every temptation to quit, turn away, or retreat from the full weight of being God's servant, even to death on the cross.
Folding this back into an ongoing theme for me -- we ought to walk as he walked -- I am encouraged to keep going and not be discouraged by hesitancy, reluctance or even failure at some moment in the ministry of my life. This is especially true when I feel like I am way over my head in a situation.
In that moment, at 'the fullness of times', there is abundant grace for me, evidenced by the fact that there was abundant grace for Jesus in every moment of his ministry. Whether it is the provision of the stone water pots, or the raw material for making what is necessary at the moment, God will not leave me without the resources for what he has called me to!