What Made Jesus Angry? Response to September's Poll Question
Updated: Oct 31, 2020
Anger displayed by the only perfect human has proven to be a very engaging subject. What incident comes to mind when you think of Jesus being angry? Most people think of when He threw over the tables of the moneychangers and chased out the livestock vendors from the temple. We assume He must have been INCENSED to do that. We only think of a person overturning tables if they're in a rage. Yet, rage certainly sounds sinful, and we know Jesus never sinned. Did you know that nowhere in the account of His clearing the temple does the Bible say Jesus was angry? (Matthew 21, Mark 11, John 2) That doesn't necessarily mean that He wasn't, but if He was, apparently it wasn't worth mentioning.
Did you know that His actions were quite intentional? He purposely wove the whip He used to drive them out beforehand. This would indicate that He was not acting in anger, but simply in the enforcement of right. Have you ever noticed how police officers are rarely angry when they're arresting or correcting? And if Jesus was in fact angry that day, He let it go quickly, as He began healing and ministering to people as soon as the temple was cleared.
So, if it wasn't recorded that Jesus was angry the day He drove out the moneychangers, when? To be honest, I thought there was only one recorded episode of His anger, but I've discovered that there's only one recorded episode in the King James Version, and that one is Mark 3:1-5:
And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which
had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him
on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man
which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it
lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?
But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them
with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the
man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was
restored whole as the other.
So Jesus was angered by hardness of heart.
But this was not the only time Jesus had such emotions. There are four or five instances I've found, and different Bible translations and versions seem to have their favorite words and phrases for describing these emotions and the actions of correction that followed: angry, indignant, greatly displeased, much displeased, righteous indignation, grieved, deeply distressed; rebuke, upbraid, scold, put to shame, reproach. It is of note for us today that this was all done with words of correction. I cannot find a time in the Gospels where it says Jesus chastised, chastened or disciplined. There was no applying of curses, impartation of sickness, or of striking dead by Jesus when he was on the earth in physical form, and He is the exact image and likeness of the character and nature of the Father. He corrected people by His word. The people who earned Jesus' ire: most often, religious leaders, and also His disciples when they acted contrary to His will and should have known better.
Mark 10:14 in the NLT:
When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said
to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God
belongs to those who are like these children."
The New Living Translation also says that Jesus was angry at Lazarus' tomb, and it may be the only version of the Bible that uses that word for this incident. What had upset Him? It seems to be the peoples' (including Mary's and Martha's) unbelief.
John 11:32 - When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said,
“Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”33 When
Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger
welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put
him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept.
36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!”
37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus
from dying?” 38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a
stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible says this in verse 38: "Then Jesus, angry in Himself again..." and the Wuest Expanded New Testament, which was translated by an expert in first century common Greek, says, "Jesus, again moved with indignation...". He was angered by their unbelief and then He was angered by their hardness of heart.
Mark 16:14 describes the same emotions:
Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked
their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those
who had seen Him after He had risen.
So Jesus was angered by hardness of heart and by unbelief. Jesus never changes.
Ephesians 4:26-27 is familiar to most of us:
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither
give place to the devil. - KJV
I heard an interesting teaching on this a couple of months ago. Sometimes we misunderstand scripture because our speech patterns have changed a lot since the KJV was written, and this might possibly be a verse that falls into that category. It's similar to the familiar passage, "Let not (God's word) depart from your mouth..." That verse almost sounds to today's readers as if we're not to speak the words, but quite the opposite is true -- never stop speaking them, is, in fact, the verse's meaning. Well, the speaker I was listening to that day maintains that" let not the sun go down on your wrath" is meant to instruct us to not let our (righteous) anger fade -- that it's all about what we're angry at, and there are things we SHOULD be angry about.
Since Matthew 5:21 makes it obvious that it's sinful to be angry at people, perhaps this speaker has a point. If it's ok to be angry as long as you don't let it cause you to sin, then perhaps that means to not direct that anger toward the people involved. (We war not against flesh and blood...) And if it's not directed at people, it must be anger toward a bad circumstance, ungodly mindset or an injustice, which come from the enemy. Therefore, why should we let our anger fade into inaction, prayerlessness or apathy, when we know God wants us to enforce His will on the earth? It's a perspective to consider, and perhaps to further search out.