Have you ever reached your breaking point? The dictionary defines a breaking point this way, ” the point at which a situation becomes critical.” It is usually at our breaking points that our emotions are released as well as the physical tensions in our body. At some point, we all reach a place where our frustrations mount to such a level that the spill out around us.
I’m not sure if people are comfortable saying that Jesus ever reached a breaking point in his life, but it does appear that divine frustration peaked when Jesus began to overturn tables in the Jerusalem Temple. All four gospels record the dramatic event.
During the season of Passover, first-century Jews came from around the world to offer sacrifices to the Lord. It was impossible to bring sacrificial animals over such distances, so they could be purchased in Jerusalem for a price. Besides, the temple tax required its currency so money changers were there to carry out the transaction. While these practices were needed then became a hot spot for sin. Pilgrims paid exorbitant rates to change money, and sellers exploited those in poverty, overcharging for the poor man’s offerings. To add to mix, these transactions took place in the Court of the Gentiles, the place where non-Jews came to pray. Worship for them was nearly impossible. While everyone was welcomed to the temple, everyone was not treated the same.
This is the scene that Jesus stepped into when he suddenly began to turn over tables and chairs as money and people went flying in every direction. Jesus was upset. Beyond upset, he had reached his breaking point. For Jesus, the situation had become critical and a statement had to be made. And indeed, the powers that were would be disturbed by Jesus’ actions. In Mark’s Gospel, we read, “And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.” (Mark 11: 18-19) They knew that Jesus had to be dealt with. Silencing his voice, even if it meant killing him would be their chosen response. It is highly unlikely that every religious leader felt this way, but perhaps their unwillingness to challenge the chief priest and their silence helped lead to Jesus’ death.
When Jesus was dying upon the cross, he looked at those who had orchestrated his death and those who were carrying out their act and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Of all the words Jesus could have hurled down at his enemies he offered forgiveness; which is simply love and mercy combined. Jesus was again at a breaking point as he felt his life slipping away. But unlike the temple where angrily turned over tables, Jesus now lovingly turned the other cheek and finished his life with the same driving force that guided his entire life; love. Jesus would say in Luke’s Gospel: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27)
Jesus knew that at the moment of his death that it was only love which could change the sin and death-filled world in which we live. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” Even in Jesus’ frustration with the unjust temple practices of this day which turned a house of prayer for all people a den of thieves for some people, Jesus never stepped off his foundation of love. Rather, he gave his life away in love for all.