- The Anger of Jesus
Did you know that Jesus gets angry? That may be hard to believe in this day and age when we’re told we have to tolerate every kind of sin and abomination, or we are guilty of hate speech. I have a good theological word for that – Baloney! We take our lead from Jesus who can become very angry and uncompromising when it comes to sin! Oh, He’s good and kind and forgiving towards those who repent. But even then, what charge did He make to those He forgave? “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more!”
That’s the tough love we see in verses 14 to 16. It says, “He found in the Temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money-changers seated, and 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; and to those who were selling doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a house of merchandise.” (For by this time it had become an ingrained habit.)
What made Jesus so angry? 3 things: 1) Their defilement of the Temple with their buying and selling. You see that phrase “house of merchandise” in verse 16? That’s the Greek word “emporium!” They had turned God’s House into a livestock exhibit like you’d see at a country fair. It was noisy; it was dirty; it was smelly! Not that there was anything wrong with buying and selling per se, but that was to be done outside the Temple in the streets leading up to it.
For what was God’s purpose for His Temple? Jesus says (Mark 11:17): “Is it not written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of thieves!” The Temple was to be a quiet retreat away from the world where you could get alone with God and pray, like Anna the prophetess who met Mary and Joseph when they brought Jesus to be dedicated in the Temple! Luke says, “She never left the Temple serving night and day with fasting and prayer.” But how do you do that when a carnival is going on around you?
2) It wasn’t the Jews only who were hindered by this. Jesus said His house was to be a house of prayer for all “nations.” The word “nations” means “Gentiles,” and there was only one place in the Temple where a Gentile was allowed to worship, and that was right here in the Court of the Gentiles where all this hawking of wares was going on, making it impossible for a repentant Gentile to meet God. Is it any wonder that this made the Lord Jesus angry?
3) The third reason for His anger was the way the poor were cheated when they came to worship. First, there was a cover charge to worship in the Temple. So the pilgrim would save up his pennies for the trip only to be told when he got there that his money was no good. “That’s Caesar’s image on your coins! You can’t use those in the Temple! That’s idolatrous!” But to buy the special coins used in the Temple, He had to pay an exorbitant exchange rate. And that lamb he raised and brought to the Temple for sacrifice? “That’s no good either! Just look at those scars and blemishes!” Forcing him to sell his perfectly good lamb at a discount, buy a more expensive one, and then watch as the buyer turned around and sold his lamb to another worshiper for a big fat profit.
Now a question: Did Jesus have the right to get angry? Let me say two things about it. First, His was a holy anger. No one was hurt with His whip, nor did He spark a riot endangering lives. If He had, the Roman cohort stationed at the Antonio Fortress overlooking the Temple would have taken action right away.
But they didn’t need to, for Jesus was in perfect control of this situation. He was simply driving trespassers off His property and claiming what was rightfully His! Imagine, for example, going on vacation and returning home two weeks later to find someone holding a garage sale in your yard. How polite would you be in asking them to leave? Not at all! You’d order them to get off your property immediately, and if they didn’t, you’d call the sheriff to remove them. But Jesus couldn’t do that because the authorities were in on this scam.
Nor did He need any help in removing them. Why not? Because the power of His anger is infinite! It’s amazing when you think about it. Josephus the historian says attendance at Passover exceeded two million pilgrims at this time, which means there would have been tens of thousands crowded into Temple square. Think Safeco Field when Felix is pitching and one person trying to clear the stands and concourse with a homemade whip! You think you could you do it? No way! Someone would wrestle you to the ground before you got started! That’s the herculean feat Jesus took on, and He had no problem doing it. Why? Because He is God!
We’ll see this again in chapter 7 when guards are sent to arrest Him. They return empty-handed saying, “No man ever spoke like this man!” Later in the Garden when they try to arrest Him, Jesus asks, “Whom do you seek?” They answer, “Jesus of Nazareth.” And when He says, “I AM!” they all drew back and “fell to the ground.” No one could arrest Him if He didn’t want to be arrested.
Of course, that’s just a foretaste of the unrelenting anger He will pour out on His enemies at His return. His anger is so powerful that those on earth during the Tribulation will hide themselves in the caves and rocks of the mountains begging them, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” For though He’s forgiving toward those who repent, His anger is unrelenting toward those who persist in their rebellion! So Psalm 2 warns, “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way. For His wrath is quickly kindled.” But then it graciously adds, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”
But, then, you pay a price when you stand up for what’s right in this world, even if you do it with the right kind of anger. Our Lord knew that and refused to be cowed by it. We will see that even more clearly when in our next study we witness the second sign of His Deity. We’ve witnessed His anger. In our next study, we’ll consider the authority of Jesus.