There seems to be a constant sway within the Church as to what type of person we believe Jesus to be on an emotional level. Some generations remove all forms of physical and vocal aggression displayed in the Biblical text and preach a “forgive and forget” type of Messiah that was always ready to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40). Other generations overlook his passion and love by focusing on Him as merely a prominent “turn or burn” preacher concerning eternal punishment for sinners (Matthew 23:33). These two popular opinions fluctuate as the years come and go, and those willing to proclaim the full spectrum of God’s love and anger find themselves surrounded by either a liberal mindset that needs to be balanced with the law, or a legalistic mindset that needs to be balanced with love. It’s during these times that brave men and women step out from the crowd and proclaim change. We see it with Moses, we see it with the prophets, and we most definitely see it in Jesus as He came to bring a message of grace and peace to the humble, and law and punishment to the proud.
The Biblical accounts of Jesus in the four Gospels shows predominantly a Messiah that has come to proclaim the Father’s love in acts of compassion, healing, and eventually, the greatest act of love ever revealed: taking the world’s sin upon Himself. There are, however, sprinkled amongst His peaceful and approachable times of ministry, times where the Lord’s anger would be the only thing able to speak to the hearts of men; particularly the hearts of those that were supposed to be helping others draw closer to Him. It’s these times of anger that can be a very valuable teaching point for the Church when it comes to maintaining a healthy balance of legalism and love to those we are called to serve.
“…we can know that he acted without sin or hypocrisy because He always did what the Father said”
We, as Christians, hold fast to the God that disciplines those He cares for, and while certain times of revealed anger from Jesus can be mistakenly perceived as directly opposing His own teachings, we can know that he acted without sin or hypocrisy because He always did what the Father said (John 8:29).
I’d like to take the time to talk about four specific areas in the Bible where Jesus acts in anger, why He had every good reason to do so, and how we can practically apply this this to our own lives in the light of Ephesians 4:26.
1. Jesus Clears and Cleanses the Temple
Early on in the book of John; near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry after He changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, we find Jesus heading to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. He becomes more than a little upset at what He sees happening at the Temple. John 2:13-22 gives us the account,
“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’”
“…Jesus sees corruption, and this makes Him angry…”
Many travelers had decided it would be easier to purchase the required sacrifice once they had arrived at Jerusalem to keep the commanded time of Passover (Deuteronomy 16:16) instead of bringing it with them. There’s always the chance the animal may become unclean on the journey causing their sacrifice to be null and void.
With the local commerce, the trading of foreign coins for use in the temple, and the ability to purchase approved animals for sacrifice, people could travel and offer their sacrifice with ease. Then again, the idea of sacrifice does not quickly bring about the concept of ease.
While it’s obvious in the passage that Jesus is furious over the merchants in the temple courts, I think it’s safe to say that anyone using the system at the time would have felt as if His act was also towards the travelers’ willingness to contribute. Also, I’ve heard through countless sermons that Jesus was mad at the merchants for removing the idea of fair prices to the travelling faithful. Either way, Jesus sees corruption, and this makes Him angry; this time, and later on again.
2. Jesus Clears and Cleanses the Temple (Again!)
“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.” (Matthew 21:12)
It seems that the idea of falling back into bad habits is something humans have been doing since our creation. Still, the question remains, was His anger justified? Did he actually break His own teaching by not turning the other cheek or at least by not having a nice conversation with the merchants to start with?
Let’s look at another example of anger from Jesus’ ministry first because I believe all three of these instances will give us a clear picture of the heart of the matter, and help us better prepare for His fourth expression of wrath that is yet to come.
3. Jesus Calls Out the Hypocrites
If Jesus clearing the Temple courts on two separate occasions gives us two of His most physical displays of anger during His ministry, then the entirety of Matthew 23 gives us his most vocal account. Matthew 23:1-4 says,
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.’”
Jesus, surrounded by his disciples, his followers, and the religious sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, has grown tired of the latter two parties trying their best to entrap Him with questions to discredit His teachings (Matthew 22:15-45). He proclaims the previous statement before all; since they challenged Him before all, but as you continue to read you can almost picture His voice growing louder while the veins in His neck and forehead begin to surface. He is pronouncing woes upon the teachers of the law for not practicing what they preach, and in the way they were horribly leading those put under their care.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)
“This is anything but turning the other cheek…”
Here, He calls them hypocrites, but He also goes on to refer to them as, “Blind guides” (Matthew 23:16), and a “Brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). To top this off, He asks them point blank, “How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33).
This is anything but turning the other cheek, and while it may seem the furthest thing from loving your neighbor (Mark 12:31), or forgiving someone seven times seventy for the things they’ve done to you (Matthew 18:21-22), there is a lot going on here that requires us to remember that God Almighty is a God of justice and righteousness, as well as a God of love and forgiveness.
None of this means anything if we forget that Jesus is God.
“Jesus is God.”
- He is the very same God of the Old Testament who, on the day of giving His laws to Moses, wanted to strike down all the Israelites in His anger because they crafted a golden calf and worshiped it. Instead, only 3,000 are listed as dying by the hand of the Levites that day (Exodus 32).
- He is the God who sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites for sexual immorality and bowing down before the false God of the Moabites before a priest named Phineas killed two people caught in the act and subsided the Lord’s anger (Numbers 25).
If those are not enough to show the wrath of the Lord, then perhaps the most extravagant display of His anger previously experienced by mankind can set the record straight:
- This is found in Genesis 7 where He killed every living creature on the earth because of their violence and corruption, saving only eight humans, one pair of every unclean animal, and seven pairs of every clean animal.
4. Jesus Will Return
He is the same God who will one day return in His love and His anger to gather the faithful followers to His side for eternal life, and cast those that did not believe, or led others astray, away into eternal punishment (Matthew 25:31-46). This is the fourth, and main act of anger that I desire to point out because it has yet to come, and it concerns us all.
You see, it is impossible to take the Bible in its full context without learning that God creates and forgives those who are repentant and faithful with love, and God punishes and pours out His anger on those who break His laws and teach others to do so.
He’s particularly hard on those called to teach those who are saved and pave the way for those who are not (James 3:1). This could be the very reason His anger is so great towards the Pharisees and Sadducees. Still, these three signs of anger that I’ve presented are tame compared to the punishments of those found in the Old Testament; and yet, they are nothing in comparison to the eternal punishment that will come upon all the unfaithful at the time of His return.
Instead of wondering why Jesus displays these acts of anger in the Gospel records, we should be wondering why He displays any act of mercy on a people that, for all intents and purposes, deserves to be treated no different than those we see judged and punished in the Old Testament.
Jesus Took the Wrath Meant for Us
All sin deserves to be punished, and we know as Christians that Jesus took that punishment upon Himself as a sacrifice for the world. Even though He demands complete obedience of His creation, He still shows all of us mercy and grace because He loves us much the same way a parent loves their children.
The difference lies in the fact that God is all knowing, and judges accordingly to His omniscience (Revelations 20:12). If He sees it as good to destroy one nation, and save another, even though their offense is similar, then He is just to do so whether we think He is or not. Only God can truly know our hearts, and, while He poured out His love despite this knowledge, He also pours out His wrath and punishment accordingly. Jesus also was fully justified in His angered response to not only the offense, but towards the heart and place of authority of the one offending. Our desire for judgement and forgiveness based solely on offense is misguided when we forget that these should be handed out based on the offense and the offender’s heart. We cannot know the heart of others since we can barely know our own. God can and that is why it’s impossible for His anger to be anything but just. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says it best,
“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure—who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart; I test the mind to reward a man according to his way, by what his deeds deserve.”
Be Angry and Do Not Sin
“In your anger do not sin,” (Ephesians 4:26).
We can be angry and be justified in our anger, especially when it’s towards something that’s blatantly evil, yet there are established guidelines that we follow so that justice can be served without us falling into sin. It’s why we are commanded to, “love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31) and, “Turn the other cheek,” (Matthew 5:38-40). Jesus is perfect, and therefore judges according to this perfection, but in all of this, He always judges according to offense and the offender’s heart. He always judges in perfect love. I hope you remember this when your anger is aroused towards any type of injustice. It may not be the best time to ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” but instead ask, “What Would Jesus Have Me Do?”
Written by Richard Lee Sorensen.
In God’s image we are made. Feelings:
Joy, sadness, anger, hatred, despair…
No human is immune to any of these feelings. Indeed, we experience the entire gamut of emotions, from anger to sadness, joy and relief, and everything in between.
Unfortunately, many of us are led my our emotions. When we get angry, we sometimes sin by engaging in unwholesome language. When we’re depressed, sad, or blue, some of us turn to food, drugs, or alcohol to cope with those feelings.
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to Our likeness…'” (Genesis 1:26)
Our emotions and feelings are normal and natural because they come from God. Scripture shows God displaying a wide range of emotions. The difference between the Lord and ourselves is our emotions or feelings can lead us to sin, while God’s emotions or feelings are righteous and come from a place of love for His people.
1. God Laughs
“The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees his day is coming.” (Psalm 37:12-13)
This verse shows that God laughs at the wicked. The same enemy who can fill our hearts with dread makes the Lord laugh. God isn’t intimidated nor moved by the enemy. He sees the enemy from afar and knows what his end is going to be. Thus, the Lord can laugh because God knows the enemy’s plans won’t succeed.
Christians can take comfort in this verse and relax in the Lord. Just as the enemy’s threats don’t move God, we don’t have to be moved by them either.
2. God Mourns
Mourning is a natural emotion. When Jesus received word that his friend, Lazarus, had died, He wept. Although Jesus knew He could raise Lazarus from the dead, He still mourned for His friend’s passing.
We mustn’t be ashamed to mourn, cry, or grieve. The death of a loved one, even someone we don’t know, will move us to tears and, in doing so, remind us of the tears Jesus shed for Lazarus. I cried when I heard about Kobe Bryant’s death. I was never his fan, but I still mourned for him, his daughter, and the others who perished on that helicopter.
3. God Hates
“There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
It feels strange typing “God hates,” yet the Bible declares there are things that God hates. God hates things that He knows are detrimental to the body of Christ. God knows the fruit of these things and wants us to keep them as far away from ourselves as possible.
When you and I hate, it’s usually because somebody did something to us or to someone we love. The hateful feelings we experience are closely tied to revenge. 1 John 3:15 teaches, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” We need to be careful about hating others.
4. God Loves
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
God loves you, me, and unbelievers. God loves the entire world. Everything God has done and is doing is because He loves people and wants us to spend eternity with Him. Love is the greatest emotion and compels us to do beautiful things for others.
Do you love God? Do you love others? Can you love your enemies (see Matthew 5:44)? We should never run low on our supply of love. We should shower everyone with love because when we do so, we’re showering God on them (God is love, see 1 John 4:8)4. God Loves
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)God loves you, me, and unbelievers. God loves the entire world. Everything God has done and is doing is because He loves people and wants us to spend eternity with Him. Love is the greatest emotion and compels us to do beautiful things for others.Do you love God? Do you love others? Can you love your enemies (see Matthew 5:44)? We should never run low on our supply of love. We should shower everyone with love because when we do so, we’re showering God on them (God is love, see 1 John 4:8).Photo Credit: © Getty Imageshttps://e93d4dc828ee1af9d25f426cf815bbae.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
5. The Lord rejoices
“The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever; the Lord shall rejoice in His works.” (Psalm 104:31)God rejoices in His works. You and I are His works. The miracles He performs are His works. He rejoices over His creation and His people. He rejoices when we obey. He rejoices when someone accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.We should rejoice too, in God, His truth, His grace, mercy, favor, righteousness, and faithfulness. We should rejoice in all His works, even those we don’t understand. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
6. God Feels Pleased
“And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.” (1 Kings 3:10)
The Lord told Solomon to ask Him for anything. God was pleased when Solomon asked for wisdom to discern between good and evil to judge God’s people. God was so pleased, He granted Solomon’s petition and also blessed him with riches and honor.
Feeling pleased is a natural emotion, one which we received from God. We should desire to please Him, and we should be pleased with Him.
7. God Feels Displeased
“And when the peopled complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and His anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp.” (Numbers 11:1)
Just as the Lord can be pleased, He can be displeased as well. Complaining displeases the Lord because it shows a lack of faith and trust in Him. He also dislikes complaining because it spreads and infects other people.
What displeases you? The same things that displease God should also displease us. We should desire to trust God and have faith in Him. We should also dislike complaining.
8. God Feels Anger
“Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses, and He said, ‘Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.’” (Exodus 4:14, see also Numbers 12:9)
God gets angry. The Old Testament is full of scriptures that show God displaying that emotion. However, God doesn’t get angry for shallow, unimportant matters. No, God is angered at sin, disobedience, and injustice.
Although we too experience anger, it’s usually in response to us not getting our way or because something unfair happened to us. Indeed, James 1:20 teaches, “for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” Although anger is a natural emotion for us, we need to be careful because anger can cause us to sin and displease God.
9. God Is Jealous
“For you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)
When I think about the word jealous, I think about a jealous spouse or friend. Spouses may feel jealous if their husband or wife shows an interest in another person. Or you can feel jealous when your best friend gets a new friend. We feel jealous when outsiders threaten our relationships.
Exodus 34:14 shines a light on God’s jealousy. However, He never feels threatened. God is jealous for us because He knows where our fellowship or covenant with false gods can lead. He wants us to be consecrated to Him so that we aren’t hurt or deceived. Thus, His jealousy is for our good.
10. God Feels Compassion
“And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14)
Most of us feel pity for the less fortunate. However, how many of us feel compelled to alleviate their suffering? Compassion moves upon the pity it feels for others. Multiple verses in the Bible show Jesus being moved with compassion. When He saw the plight of others, He didn’t say, “I feel sorry for you.” Instead, He acted upon what He felt.
Christians should also act upon the compassion we feel for others. Whether it’s buying groceries for the less fortunate, visiting the sick and shut-in, or praying for someone who needs prayer, we need to be moved by compassion and act upon what we feel. Besides, “…faith without works is dead,” (James 2:26).
Yes, God has emotions and feelings. He experiences joy, gladness, anger, jealousy, and compassion like us. He understands our tears and our smiles. He understands when we get upset and angry. And because He does, we can rest assured that He understands when we become emotional. Don’t be ashamed of your emotions. Instead, go to God in prayer, laying our feelings and emotions at His feet. He cares for you and your feelings.