Jesus and his followers were visiting Jerusalem for Passover. They went into the temple of The Lord and saw the great evil that was taking place there. The temple of God was filled with salesmen selling animals, pottery, and linens instead of reverent men praying and worshiping God. Tables of money were scattered throughout where exchanges were taking place instead of providing needs for their poor. Jesus looks around him, as his gaze circles the temple his face turns from peace to anger. His breathing becomes labored as he tries to contain the burning rage inside him. This is the house of God, the house of His father, His House! Despite his best efforts, his fists clench and his clothes begin to rip as his body grows to that of a beast! His anger has overtaken his mortal body and turned him into……..The Hulk! He shouts as he begins to overturn tables and ruin the merchants displays in the table! People are screaming as they run away from the horrifying Jesus who destroys the marketplace! Panting from anger, he boastfully shouts the words, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but [YOU] are making it a robbers den[!]”
Sound familiar? As a child, this is how I pictured the story in Matthew 21:12-13. Now let me provide you with the actual story;
Matthew 21:12-13: “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. 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.”
Do you see the disconnect? Let me explain.
Although I hate stereotypes, I am about to stereotype myself and my family. My father is aN Italian/German red-head and I look just like him. Get the picture? My family of redheads fits the stereotype of being red and Italian…..we get angry easily. I get angry easily.
As a child, I remember my church always referring to this story in Matthew and stating, “see, even Jesus got angry.” Although they may have elaborated on this scripture as I will in a moment, I do not remember it. What I took from the story and that statement was that Jesus got angry, so it’s okay for me to get angry.
Their point was that Jesus was human and had real human emotions such as you and I do. But this poses many serious problems that as an adult I can no longer ignore.
1) The scripture does not say Jesus was angry
In fact, the word “angry” is not in this story in either of the 4 gospels it appears in. Beginning this post, I was prepared to do a greek word study on the word “angry” and indeed never got to do it! It surprised me to find out that this story of Jesus that has always been affiliated with the emotion of anger never mentions it. Even the punctuation gives us no evidence. The story is written with periods at the end of each sentence, not exclamation marks as I would have imagined.
We have to be careful to not put anything into the text, ever!
2) His anger is not our anger
Let’s entertain the idea that Jesus was angry. While the story never explicitly states he is angry and even though I feel it is unnecessary to put this assumption into the text, it is clear that he is not happy.
The story states that Jesus “overturned” tables and “drove out” people from the temple. Needless to say, he was not happy with what he saw. So let’s say he’s mad…….
Jesus’ anger is a righteous anger. My anger almost always is not.
Jesus was angry that people were misusing the house of God. The Temple of the Lord was literally the house of God. It represented His presence in Israel.
If Jesus experienced the emotion of anger, then it is safe to say that His anger was not our normal emotion of anger. Jesus was completely human but was also completely divine. He lived a life without sin, therefore His anger is not in sin. His anger was right, it was righteous and holy.
3) I cannot use this scripture to justify my anger
The only time you would be able to use this scripture to justify anger is when that anger is righteous. This led me to think, what makes me angry? Is my anger righteous?
I get angry when I am in a rush. I absolutely hate rushing! Often times I will wait until last minute to get ready. I am beginning to stress because I procrastinated and need to move quickly. Then my five year old still has to put on his shoes because he disobeyed me and continued to play with his legos, or decides to walk as slow as he can to the car. I become even more angry because he is now making me late, however, if I wouldn’t have procrastinated then we wouldn’t be on a time crunch. Then I hit every red light on my way to my destination. Or it’s snowbird season and no one can seem to go the speed limit. I get angry when I rush!
I get angry when my son cries for no reason! You know, that annoying cry that kids do when they are not even crying but are just making a loud moaning noise to try to get attention….ya, I hate that!
I get angry when people cut me off and almost get in an accident with me. I get angry when my husband is late grabbing the kids or doesn’t spend enough time with me. I get angry when I can’t open my bottle of nail polish no matter how hard I try!
These things are not examples of righteous anger. My anger is almost always selfish and a product of my lack of self-control. What should make me angry, what would be a righteous anger would be when seeing injustice. What should make me angry is witnessing God’s people taking advantage of the church by teaching false theologies about God and using His name to bring glory to them. Or seeing the Church become cliques that close themselves off to newcomers or those who are different than them. A righteous anger would be seeing God’s people ignore the homeless, orphans, slaves, and widows.
Jesus did not lack self-control but acted perfectly as he quietly went like a lamb to the cross in order to die for our sins. He did not get angry when the Pharisees attempted to trick him into blasphemy. He did not get angry when His friends betrayed Him. He had perfect control when He drove out the money changers and overthrew tables in the Temple.
He was God incarnate, 100% human and yet 100% God. I am 100% human.
We are to take out of the scriptures what is already there and be careful to not read our own desires into the text. We must only be as detailed as the Bible is.
IF Jesus was angry, I assure you He did not look like the Hulk. He was not a raging, out of control mess. He does not resemble me as I am freaking out at my family to get out the door so we can get to church on time. His anger would have been righteous and just as He is. I cannot use this scripture to justify my broken and sinful emotions of anger and lack of self control.
The Lord gave us emotions to use in a righteous way. The lack of controlling my anger does not resemble Christ to my family or friends (or the guy on the highway). I want my anger to be righteous as Jesus’ was. I want to have the control He had. As a red-headed Italian/German woman, I will forever be seeking The Lord’s guidance and help on this subject! You are not alone!