Jesus was a prophetic voice but not a violent political revolutionary, Pope Benedict XVI said in Sunday comments on Christ’s expulsion of the animal sellers and money changers from the temple in Jerusalem.
“It is impossible to interpret Jesus as a violent person. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God, it is a tool of the Antichrist. Violence never serves humanity, but dehumanizes,” said the Pope in his March 11 Angelus address at the Vatican.
His remarks criticized the occasional interpretation of this episode in a political revolutionary sense that places Jesus in line with the Zealot movement.
The Zealots were a Jewish political movement who were “zealous” for God’s law and “ready to use violence to enforce it,” the Pope explained. They were waiting for a Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman rule. Jesus, however, “disappointed them in this” to the extent that “some disciples deserted him and even Judas Iscariot betrayed him.”
Though Jesus was not being political he was being prophetic, said the Pope. The prophets “in the name of God, often denounced abuses, and they did so sometimes with symbolic gestures.”
The key to understanding the actions of Christ, the Pope said, is to listen to Jesus’ words during the event: “Take these things and make not my Father’s house a market!”
These words reminded the disciples of Psalm 69: "Zeal for your house consumes him."
This psalm is “a cry for help in a situation of extreme danger because of the hatred of enemies,” the Pope said. This is the same situation that Jesus will experience in his passion. It is “zeal for the Father and for his house” which therefore led Jesus to the cross.
His zeal, though, is “the zeal of love that pays personally, not that of a person who wants to serve God through violence.” In fact, the “sign” that Jesus gave as proof of his authority was his own death and resurrection when he said he would “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it.” This “temple” was his own body.
“With Easter Jesus begins a new cult, the cult of love, and a new church which is Christ himself, the Risen Christ, by which every believer can worship God the Father ‘in spirit and truth,’” the Pope concluded.
“Dear friends, the Holy Spirit has begun to build this new temple in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Through her intercession, we pray that every Christian becomes a stone of this spiritual house.”