Jesus got angry in our text this week. Read John 2:13-25. He enters the temple and drives out the money changers with a whip and flips their tables over. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of this version of Jesus. He makes me uncomfortable. I’m a peacemaker by nature. Ask my kids, I never raise my voice and I was raised by a father who never did either. I like the peaceful Jesus who kinda floats just a few inches above the ground and hangs out with the little children.
Then this passage comes along and shreds that idyllic image. It’s not the only one, either. He wishes a millstone hung around the neck and drowning of those who hurt children (Matthew 18:6). He said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword that divides families (Matthew 10:34). He launches woe after woe toward the religious leaders in Luke 11:37-54.
What’s up with the angry Jesus?
Today’s text quotes Psalm 69:9 as it describes Jesus’ actions, “It is zeal for your house that has consumed me.” Psalm 69 is attributed to David who is feeling overwhelmed by people who are unjustly trying to harm him and thwart his obedience to God’s calling.
I was inspired to write this post for a couple reasons. First, and obviously, this is our text for the week. Second, Richard Rohr’s meditation for today talks about the alternate reality that Jesus brings. Rohr says,
I am told that there are three kinds of cultures in the Western world today, each with its own “bottom line”: political cultures based on the manipulation of power, economic cultures based on the manipulation of money, and religious cultures based on the manipulation of some theory about God. These three cultures are based on different forms of violence, although it is usually denied by most participants and hidden from the superficial observer. Evil gains its power from disguise. Jesus undid the mask of disguise and revealed that our true loyalty was seldom really to God, but to power, money, and group belonging. (In fact, religion is often the easiest place to hide from God.)…Challenging the status quo is unpopular. Jesus was killed for opposing the religious and political powers of his time.
The third reason I write it is because we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday. Dr. King was killed for speaking truth to power and being willing to challenge the institutions of power that systemically keep minority populations subjugated. I love the Tweet from the Bible Project this week.
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we wanted to share our Read Scripture video on the book of Amos, Dr. King’s favorite book in the Bible. He even drew from passages in Amos when he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. https://t.co/zs44GlsSpB#TheBibleProject #MLKday pic.twitter.com/FMmNjRDOqa
— The Bible Project (@JoinBibleProj) January 15, 2018
The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:26 to “be angry but do not sin.” Anger is not evil. Listen to this sermon on emotions from this past summer. Anger is a gift from God. The wrath of God is ignited when powerful people use their power to hurt or exploit powerless people. God always stands on the side of the oppressed.
What makes you angry?
My prayer is that I get angry over the same things that makes God angry, and that in my anger I don’t become the oppressor and continue the cycle of violence. Jesus didn’t do this. He absorbed the violence on the cross and overcame it with forgiveness.