Matthew 21:12-13 (New American Standard Bible)
12 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.
13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out 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;
16 and He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.
17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘ MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL THE NATIONS’? But you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
45 Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling,
46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘AND MY HOUSE SHALL BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER,’ but you have made it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”
47 And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him,
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.
15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables;
16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.”
Can one man clear a the temple?
One man using a weapon, even a non-lethal weapon such as an animal scourge, can clear a room pretty quickly. Especially if the other people in the room are unarmed, surprised, and (as disarmed subjects of a foreign dictatorship) used to being be submissive to force. The room-clearing is all the easier if the man with the weapon has a strong and fearless personality. It even easier if the man is backed by a wildly cheering crowd in a religious frenzy (such as the crowd that had, in Matthew’s version, just welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem and proclaimed him the messiah).
So here is probably the “best” non pacifist Text. It is an important event in the life of Jesus obviously because it was one of the few events recorded in all four Gospels.
So what are we to learn from this? Well I think if we consider the importance of Jesus’s position, we can take in the text and see what was accomplished with the cleansing of the Temple. But what of his violent behavior? Since this is posted in the Counter Arguments and Difficult questions sections, I will leave it up to the responses to answer these questions.