Rethinking Jesus: Jesus got angry differently

by Kyle
published February 7, 2015


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I was people-watching recently. Nothing is quite as interesting, stimulating or entertaining as observing how people live. Because God seems interested in us, it just makes sense to be interested in people, too.

I was watching a group of students waiting to be picked up after court-mandated community service. As I watched the way they interacted with each other and with their parents over the phone, I noticed a striking similarity among them. They were all angry about everything. I have known many of these students for at least several months, and as I thought about them, I realized they were always angry. Every one of them.

As I drove home, I noticed other drivers around me. The woman in the car next to me at a stop light was obviously arguing with someone on the phone. I’m surprised I couldn’t hear her. The man in the car behind me had a scowl on his face like he just didn’t want to be in the car anymore. He noticed the light turned green before I did and honked.

Maybe a lot of adults aren’t much different from the students I had just left. Angry. About everything. All the time.

It seems as the world and things in the world fail more and more to measure up to our expectations, it becomes more and more easy to be angry.

I think that’s why the Bible says this: “Everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God,” (James 1:19-20) and “In your anger, do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26)

Simply put, you do not have to act out how you feel. What God wants cannot be accomplished when you get angry and act out your anger. Nothing good will ever come from you or me doing something just because we’re angry. No justice. No righteousness. No grace. No mercy. Nothing good that God loves.

“But Jesus got angry! He drove out the money changers in the temple! He had righteous anger!” I know you’re thinking this, or something like it, right now. Let’s look at Jesus’ anger, because you’re right.

First, the thing many people ignore is Jesus cleansed the temple at least two times. He did it during the first Passover after his first miracle in John 2:14-16. He did it the week before he was crucified in Matthew 21:12-13. I wonder if the money changers though, “Oh great, here comes Jesus,” whenever he came to Jerusalem. This is enough to lead a careful reader to believe there was consistency to Jesus’ approach. When we act angry, are we consistent or erratic?

Second, in John’s account, Jesus made a “whip of cords” (John 2:15). That takes time. Jesus might have yelled. He might have seemed violent. But whatever he was, he wasn’t out of control. What he did when he cleansed the temple was planned out and deliberate. When we act angry, do we act deliberately or are we just emotional?

Third, Jesus didn’t actually hurt anyone. He drove the money changers out, and he flipped some tables, but not one person was injured. In John 2, he used the whip he made to drive out the cattle and sheep, not on the people. Even his words were not intended to harm. He confronted sin, but made no personal attacks. When we act angry, do we try to call someone to more godly behavior or do we try to hurt someone?

Finally, Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing” (John 5:19). Jesus, being the son of God, saw the will of God more clearly than anyone else possibly can. Jesus’ response came from the fact he was 100 percent sure he was doing the will of God. When we act angry, are we 100 percent sure our will is the same as God’s will, or do we hope God’s will is the same as ours?

When Jesus felt angry, even with regard to cleansing the temple, he did not act angry the way we do. His anger was not personal. He was consistent, deliberate, did no harm and acted according to God’s will always. When we act angry, we are none of those things.

For the Christian, times of anger should become times for seeking God’s will. Maybe God will show you the offense is personal and you should trust him with justice. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. ... Do not take revenge ... but leave room for God’s wrath” (Romans 12:17,19). It is man’s anger that does not accomplish God’s righteousness. God’s anger, on the other hand, does accomplish his own righteousness.

Maybe God will show you the thing making you angry makes him angry, too. Maybe he’ll lead you to do the right thing. How do we know the right thing when he shows it? He will always lead you to “act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). He’ll show you how to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” Anything different is man’s anger and “the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.”

What do you think?

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