There seems to be a constant sway within the Church as to what type of person we believe Jesus to be on an emotional level. Some generations remove all forms of physical and vocal aggression displayed in the Biblical text and preach a “forgive and forget” type of Messiah that was always ready to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40).
Other generations overlook his passion and love by focusing on Him as merely a prominent “turn or burn” preacher concerning eternal punishment for sinners (Matthew 23:33). These two popular opinions fluctuate as the years come and go, and those willing to proclaim the full spectrum of God’s love and anger find themselves surrounded by either a liberal mindset that needs to be balanced with the law, or a legalistic mindset that needs to be balanced with love. It’s during these times that brave men and women step out from the crowd and proclaim change. We see it with Moses, we see it with the prophets, and we most definitely see it in Jesus as He came to bring a message of grace and peace to the humble, and law and punishment to the proud.
The Biblical accounts of Jesus in the four Gospels shows predominantly a Messiah that has come to proclaim the Father’s love in acts of compassion, healing, and eventually, the greatest act of love ever revealed: taking the world’s sin upon Himself. There are, however, sprinkled amongst His peaceful and approachable times of ministry, times where the Lord’s anger would be the only thing able to speak to the hearts of men; particularly the hearts of those that were supposed to be helping others draw closer to Him. It’s these times of anger that can be a very valuable teaching point for the Church when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance of legalism and love to those we are called to serve.
“…we can know that he acted without sin or hypocrisy because He always did what the Father said”
We, as Christians, hold fast to the God that disciplines those He cares for, and while certain times of revealed anger from Jesus can be mistakenly perceived as directly opposing His own teachings, we can know that he acted without sin or hypocrisy because He always did what the Father said (John 8:29).
I’d like to take the time to talk about four specific areas in the Bible where Jesus acts in anger, why He had every good reason to do so, and how we can practically apply this this to our own lives in the light of Ephesians 4:26.
1. Jesus Clears and Cleanses the Temple
Early on in the book of John; near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry after He changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, we find Jesus heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He becomes more than a little upset at what He sees happening at the Temple. John 2:13-22 gives us the account,
“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”
“…Jesus sees corruption, and this makes Him angry…”
Many travelers had decided it would be easier to purchase the required sacrifice once they had arrived at Jerusalem to keep the commanded time of Passover (Deuteronomy 16:16) instead of bringing it with them. There’s always the chance the animal may become unclean on the journey causing their sacrifice to be null and void.
With the local commerce, the trading of foreign coins for use in the temple, and the ability to purchase approved animals for sacrifice, people could travel and offer their sacrifice with ease. Then again, the idea of sacrifice does not quickly bring about the concept of ease.
While it’s obvious in the passage that Jesus is furious over the merchants in the temple courts, I think it’s safe to say that anyone using the system at the time would have felt as if His act was also towards the travelers’ willingness to contribute. Also, I’ve heard through countless sermons that Jesus was mad at the merchants for removing the idea of fair prices to the travelling faithful. Either way, Jesus sees corruption, and this makes Him angry; this time, and later on again.
2. Jesus Clears and Cleanses the Temple (Again!)
Near the end of His ministry in Matthew 21:12-17 (also found in Mark 11:15-19, and Luke 19:45-48) He does almost the exact same thing as before, sans whip.
“Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.” (Matthew 21:12)
It seems that the idea of falling back into bad habits is something humans have been doing since our creation. Still, the question remains, was His anger justified? Did he actually break His own teaching by not turning the other cheek or at least by not having a nice conversation with the merchants to start with?
Let’s look at another example of anger from Jesus’ ministry first because I believe all three of these instances will give us a clear picture of the heart of the matter, and help us better prepare for His fourth expression of wrath that is yet to come.
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SOURCE: Crosswalk, Rick Sorensen