[Jesus] looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.
Reflection: The Focus of Christ’s Anger
By John Tillman
It isn’t too often we see Jesus angry, so it makes sense to pay close attention to when and why it happens.
The word translated “angry” here is used many ways. Paul says we should rid our lives of it. Paul also uses it to describe God’s wrath that will come on the disobedient.
Jesus spent a lot of time with people who, by every cultural definition and religious law, would be under God’s wrath. Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus spent time with heretics. Jesus graced the homes of financial swindlers and race traitors. Jesus spoke to fallen women. (Speaking to women at all made him an outlier to his culture.) Jesus touched lepers. Jesus befriended and praised foreign occupiers.
Shouldn’t Jesus have been angry with them?
In our culture of outrage, we can’t get enough of anger. We decry escalation of conflict using escalating rhetoric. We bemoan the sinking values of personal responsibility while refusing to take responsibility for the ills of society. We claim to value love and peace yet we high five those spewing hateful vitriol. We claim to value tolerance and diversity, yet we embrace politicians who seek domination and oppression of any opposition.
An angry Jesus could get a lot of retweets in our culture. Of course, we would want him to be angry with the same people we are and in the same way we are. However, when Jesus became angry, he was usually in a house of worship or the homes of the religious elite.
Christ did not sling stinging rebukes or harsh language at the wide variety of sinners he encountered. He saved those for the Pharisees—who are the people in the Bible most culturally similar to modern, Western Christians.
Why would we expect him to speak any differently today? Is Jesus angry…with us?
Part of prayer is seeking knowledge of our wrongdoing. In prayer we can honestly and openly seek to find the focus of Christ’s anger in our lives. Christ’s anger is a good anger. It is an anger that calls us to turn back. It is a healing anger that grieves at our selfishness and hard-heartedness.
Seek today for what in your life causes Christ to grieve, to be angry. Ask the Holy Spirit to soften your heart and cleanse you.
Prayer: The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.
Genesis 32 (Listen – 4:40)
Mark 3 (Listen – 3:41)
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Read more about A Sign of Immaturity
As Christians, Pharisees would be the most frequent attenders of your church. They would not be similar to “cultural Christians” whose only identifying mark of Christianity is on a census taker’s form. In fact, they would probably look down on such uncommitted believers.
Read more about We Confess :: Worldwide Prayer
The gospel is better served by time spent confessing our own sins than time spent accusing the world of theirs. When we call others to confession, we ought to be inviting them to join us, not sending them somewhere we’ve never been.