Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple,
Dipinto da Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678),
Olio su tela,
Dipinto circa 1640,
© Museo del Louvre, Parigi

Jesus Driving the Merchants from the Temple,
Dipinto da Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678),
Olio su tela,
Dipinto circa 1640,
© Museo del Louvre, Parigi

Gospel of 9 Novembre 2019

Gesù purifica il Tempio

Giovanni 2:13-22

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

Riflessione sulla pittura

Today we look at Jacob Jordaens’ masterpiece Christ driving the merchants from the Temple. It is a monumental oil on canvas, of nearly 3 meters in height, kept in the collections of the Louvre Museum in Paris. This chaotic and yet very carefully arranged composition was acquired by King Louis XV of France, as he loved its dramatic, Baroque and stage-like appeal. Jacob Jordaens used the subject matter as an excuse to paint a lively market scene, very much in the Flemish tradition, with all sorts of animals, birds and chickens in cages, a lady carrying a basket with vegetables on her head, donkeys, oxen. The way flesh and muscles are depicted reveal the influence of Jordaens’ master Peter Paul Rubens. Christ to the right side of the composition, is holding up a whip, in an action filled gesture. His expression seems serene and determined. At the center of the scene is one of the money changers, falling off his armchair, in an attitude of panic and fear. He seems to be falling out of the canvas, thus inviting the viewer into the scene. To the left side of the painting are the high priests, looking down on the scene, already plotting Jesus’ demise. Despite its apparent chaos, the composition was carefully studied by Jacob Jordaens, with the twenty-one characters, placed on three main horizontal bands.

As is so graphically and beautifully depicted in our painting, Jesus saw that the sale of animals and the work of the moneychangers had gone out of hand and that the business ventures had become more important than the true purpose of the Temple: worship and prayer. Jesus was angry that His Father's house had turned into a marketplace. But as usual, this story is not just one dimensional: Jesus is applying the term ‘Temple’ to his own body and is prophesising His own resurrection.

To me, the fact that we see Christ being angry, shows that whilst being fully divine, he was also fully human, getting frustrated, angry, annoyed, etc just like the rest of us. His humanity is on plain display: His human Body cracking the whip; His human Heart being emotionally frustrated; His human Will wanting to serve His father; His human Mind where we see his wisdom at display to cleanse the temple and put things right. And so Jesus is like you and me in every respect, with a human body, heart, mind, and will… except for sin!…

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