Jesus’ Anger

What made Jesus mad?

Christians love to focus on the gentle and tender heart of Jesus. But what about his righteous rage?

When the Bible mentions Jesus’ statement, “You’d be better off with a millstone tied around your neck and thrown into the sea“ (Matthew 18:6) it sounds more like a line from a mafia movie than the red letters of Jesus! In another example, Jesus said, “you’re a child of hell!” (Matthew 23:15) Do you think He could have made these statements without scowling a bit?

In the Gospels, what, and who, ignited Jesus’ anger? The religious leaders of the organized religion of His day!

The match that always lit Jesus’ fuse in arousing His anger is contained in this key verse where He bellowed: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” (Matthew 23:13).

Three times we’re told Jesus was angry: The first is the temple scene during Holy Week (Mark 11:15-17). Then there was a time he was healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), and he was angry about their stubborn hearts. And, the third time is when the disciples blocked the children from coming to him, where we’re told Jesus was “indignant” (Mark 10:13-14).

And if you add to that the many times he used strong language, it was always directed toward those who were on the inside of the church of the day, usually the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. (One time it was the disciples.)

But never were such comments, or Jesus’ anger, directed at anyone on the outside. Jesus was never mad at “sinners.”

Think about it this way: Jesus came to provide access to the Father. Jesus knew that His mission was to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10), and He knew the price He’d have to pay for it. So what made Him angry was anything that got in the way of the goal of reuniting Dad with His kids.

The only instance we have from the Bible where Jesus acted on His anger was when He cleansed the temple. And to be clear, it was a premeditated move: He’d been in the temple the night before (Mark 11:11), after which He made a whip and returned and violently overturned tables in the temple courtyard.

It goes back to Matthew 23:13 and the kingdom blocking, “shutting the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces”.

Matthew 21; 12,13 recalls, “Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  ‘It is written,’ He said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.’”

The key point is where they were doing this business. It was in the Court of Gentiles. …The only access for the people from the “outside” – the non-Jews – to the house of prayer was precisely where the marketplace was set up. In other words, they were literally blocking the door to the kingdom.

Of anger, the Apostle Paul wrote of a distinction, “In your anger, do not sin.” Jesus was fully human, with the full range of human emotions, including anger.

Jesus didn’t sin, but he did get angry.

[Inspired by a Bible Gateway interview with author Tim Harlow]