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Think You Know What it Means to Turn the Tables? Think Again.

Sometimes people just don’t get it. They don’t get you.

They don’t have a clue what it’s like to be you. They’ve misjudged you. They shortchanged you. If the tables were turned, if they could glimpse things from your perspective, perhaps things would be different.

When you think of all the people in your life, who would you most like to turn the tables on?

Jesus slips into the temple unnoticed. People are busy selling their wares—oxen, sheep, doves, and exchanging money. The practices aren’t unusual; in fact, the pilgrims needed them. Temple practices required animals for sacrifice and it was impractical to insist on people travelling long distances with a few ox in tow.

Plus, the required temple tax needed to be paid in the local currency. Many of the travelers were probably appreciative of the services offered. Those involved probably didn’t set out to exploit or impede worship; they simply adapted practical responses. In the process, they began looking away from the possibility that corruption could slide the temple.

Jesus had a different response. In John 2:13-22, he:

Grabs cords.

Weaves a whip.

Scatters workers.

Flips tables.

It’s worth noting that John’s Gospel isn’t written to provide a chronological account of Jesus’ life as much as proclaim the life and ministry of Christ and invite people to believe in him. While the other Gospels feature the story of Jesus overturning the tables at the close of Jesus’ ministry, John places it at the beginning.

John wants us to sense unease right from the start of the Gospel.

He wants to remind us that we might have more in common with the targets of Jesus’ judgment than we first thought. Though we want to be counted among the righteous ones, John’s Gospel challenges us to consider how often we’re the ones cutting corners, compromising.

Jesus speaks to those in the temple and He also speaks to us. In humility. In prayer. In Scripture. In community. We begin to discover that rather than try to turn the tables on someone else, the first tables we overturn must be our own.

Take time today to prayerfully consider your motives:

Where has compromise slipped into your life?

What concessions have you given into that are robbing you of the abundant life?

What is that thing you once promised “you’d never do” but now you’ve justified?

Through humility and repentance, may we turn the tables in our own hearts and prepare the way for more of Christ in our lives.