Jesus flipped tables over in righteous anger during his ministry—but if that’s your favorite thing about him, you’re missing the point. That was VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer’s point in a recent Twitter thread.
“If table-flipping Jesus is our favorite Jesus, we’ve lost the plot,” said Vischer. “If Pharisee-insulting Jesus is our favorite Jesus, we’ve lost the plot.”
If the Jesus who, out of love for others, laid down his rights and picked up his cross – and called his followers to do the same – isn’t the Jesus we’re devoted to, we’ve lost the plot.
— Phil Vischer (@philvischer) April 12, 2021
Vischer did not by his phrasing mean to imply that there is more than one Jesus we can follow, but rather to indicate the danger of missing the point of who Jesus is and why he came. The Twitter thread generated hundreds of comments and thousands of likes, which Vischer found surprising.
The debate is not too shocking, however. It has not been unusual over the past few months to see people online justify hostile behavior based on the fact that Jesus flipped tables in righteous anger.
Jesus Flipped Tables…And Carried His Cross
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
The Gospel of John specifically mentions that Jesus made a whip before driving people out. John 2:13-17 says:
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
For some reason, quite a few people have taken these passages as justification for violent or aggressive behavior. We at ChurchLeaders noticed that multiple people cited Jesus’ cleansing of the temple as a rationale for the violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol earlier this year. Note that the following comments are not debating who was responsible for the violence—rather, they are about the fact that it took place at all.
“The Jesus in the bible would have clean [sic] that house and more,” said one Facebook user in response to this post. Another commented, “The Jesus of the Gospels made a whip, over turned tables and drove out those who abused a sacred house by turning it into a place to make money for themselves!”
Yet another user said, “That [U.S. Capitol] building is a temple and constructed as such. Jesus went into a temple and flipped over tables…Man up and realize that while this may not have been the time …there are times. Stop acting like it is always a bad thing.”
People are also using the fact that Jesus flipped tables to justify aggressive rhetoric. And this phenomenon is not unique to ChurchLeaders, as is clear from Relevant magazine’s decision to publish an article in March entitled, “Jesus’ Flipping Tables Isn’t an Excuse for Your Online Rants.”