“Gentle Jesus Meek & Mild”?

“And Jesus entered the Temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the Temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” (Matthew 21:21)

Many people in our world have a certain idea of the person of Jesus, which does not square with reality. You often hear people say things like, “Jesus wouldn’t do …. (whatever)” — typically saying or doing what they consider to be some harsh thing. Their view of Him is entirely like that of Charles Wesley’s old hymn, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild …”. What they don’t realize is that this mental picture they have conjured up doesn’t have much to do with reality. One of the places we see this is in Matthew 21:21, where Jesus cleansed the Temple.

Scripture tells us there that when He came to the Temple, Jesus “drove out all those who were buying and selling.” He “overturned the tables over the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” So much for “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”! Now, could Jesus be gentle and meek? Absolutely. He was tender with many He encountered, like the children He took to Himself, or the adulterous woman, whom He forgave and sent to sin no more. He Himself said, “I am gentle and humble in heart.” (Matthew 11:29)

But gentle and humble was not ALL that He was. He could also be bold, powerful, and disruptive, as He was that day in the Temple. It took a strong, brave man to drive all those people out of the Temple. And it demonstrated a holy anger when He overturned the tables and chairs of those who were selling merchandise that day.

There are many who criticize those who speak out against false teachings and false teachers by name, claiming that “Jesus wouldn’t do things like that!” But the Jesus of scripture did. In Matthew 16 He called out the Pharisees and the Sadducees by name, and told His disciples to beware of their teaching. His sermon against the hypocritical religious practices of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23 is one of the strongest condemnations of any specific group you will find anywhere.

The lesson here is that the mental picture which many people have of Jesus does not accord with reality. It is not necessarilly a bad tack to take, to ask ones self: “What would Jesus do?” in a given situation, because we are indeed called to imitate Him. But when we consider that question, we need to make sure that the “Jesus” we seek to imitate is the Jesus of scripture — not some bland and innocuous version of Him which is only a work of our own mistaken imagination. If what we envision of Jesus causes us to refrain from confronting evil, or keeps us from acting or speaking boldly, then we need to realize that the “Jesus” we are picturing ourselves imitating is a pure work of fiction.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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