I find it uncanny how often the so-called 'cleansing of the temple' incident (Mk. 11:15–19, 11:27–33, Mt. 21:12–17, 21:23–27, Lk. 19:45–48, 20:1–8 and Jn. 2:13–16) is cited as an example of Jesus' use 'violence' and then employed as a precedent and endorsement for the Christian use of violence.
It seems bizarre to equate Jesus' prophetic act as 'violent' at all, if our definition of violence has anything to do with 'doing harm to others.' Sure, the temple incident was 'violent' in the broader sense that it was a show of force or an intervention. But that's not how the Bible uses the term: throughout the Bible, the word 'violence' is associated with injustice, bloodshed and death. There's a galaxy of distance between what Jesus did in the temple and killing one's enemies -- something Jesus spoke directly against. This is especially so when just days later he rebukes Peter with the command, "Put down your sword. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword" -- an injunction the early church canonized and understood as a universal instruction for all Christians (cf. John Driver, How Christians Made Peace With War).
Even for readers who believe in some forms of 'just violence' in lawful ways (e.g., police action), the temple incident is not the place to start or end. As we'll see, it has nothing to do with justifying the Christian use of violence. So then, what do we make of Jesus' seemingly out-of-character actions? Here are some thoughts: