And Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found sitting in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money. And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, “Take these things hence: make not my father’s house an house of merchandise.” —John 2:13-17
In the foregoing passages, it looks as if Jesus contradicted His own teaching: “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew, 5:39.
Jesus, however, didn’t actually hurt anyone nor was He truly angry. He put on a show of anger to frighten the naughty children who were trading in God’s house. Had Jesus been really angry, He would have used His divine powers to destroy these desecrators of God’s temple.
Non-violence and the serpent
Jesus’ approach is well illustrated by an old Hindu story. Once upon a time, long, long ago, a vicious serpent lived in a hole in a hill on the outskirts of a village. The serpent resented any noise around its dwelling and attacked and killed many of the villagers’ children who ventured to play around the hill.
The villagers tried their utmost to kill the serpent, but met with no success. Failing in this, they went to the local hermit who possessed miraculous powers and asked him to find a way to prevent the death-dealing work of the serpent.
Yielding to the legitimate prayers of the villagers, the hermit went to the hill where the serpent resided and by his spiritual powers summoned the serpent to appear in his presence. The hermit scolded the serpent for killing the children and instructed him never to bite again, but to practice loving his enemies. The hermit then left the village and went on a pilgrimage for a year. As he was returning to the village by way of the hill, he thought, “Let me see how my friend the serpent is behaving.” When he reached the serpent’s hole he found the serpent lying half-dead in front of his hole with several stitches in his back.
The hermit said, “Hello, Mr. Serpent, what’s all this?” The serpent dolefully whispered, “Master, this is the result of practicing your teaching. Whenever I came out of my hole in quest of food and minded my own business, the village boys, noticing my docility and refusal to attack, threw small stones at me. When they saw me running away from them, they made it their business to throw big stones at me, with the object of killing me.
Master, I dodged many times, but also got badly hurt many times, and now I am lying here with several stitches in my back because I have been trying to love my enemies.”
The village hermit then looked at him and said, “Fool, I told you not to sting to death, but why didn’t you hiss and scare them away?”
This story illustrates that a person, although meek and spiritual, should not be spineless or without common sense and allow himself to be made into a doormat. When provoked or unnecessarily attacked, the spiritual man should try to scare his enemies away by a show of anger or strength, but without really getting angry inwardly.
That is what Jesus did. He hissed at the moneychangers and scared them away, but did not injure them or truly become angry. He tried to put sense into them so that they would not incur bad karma by blasphemy against the Temple of God. Jesus was saying: “Take these material things away, for they spread material vibrations and evoke material thoughts.”
However, one should never hiss, even with a show of anger, if one has the tendency to injure anybody.