07 January 2013

Encountering Jesus - When God gets mad?

At least, that was how I'd always heard this next section of the Gospel of John described... how Jesus got angry but did not sin in His anger... usually with some sort of application that the rest of us mere mortals always sin in our anger, so we just don't get angry... or at least that was my understanding of what was being said.

I'd always heard that camels are angry, grumpy, prone to bite and spit - generally just difficult animals chosen only because of their practicality... but that idea hasn't necessarily matched up with what I've seen as I've watched men handle these very large and very powerful creatures in some pretty amazing circumstances around this city.

Troupeaux Chameaux Desert Mauritanie 1
Photo by Vision d'Afrique
So... As I read, study and contemplate on these verses... these words... the first question that crosses my mind? 

Does zeal equal anger?
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days. 
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men 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 area, 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! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” 
His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2.12-17)

It is easy to see how some could interpret anger as they read this passage. I think, "I  can only imagine myself throwing money around, chasing animals with whips, overturning tables and exclaiming, 'Get out!' or 'How dare you!' I would clearly be out-of-control furious or livid. Even if my actions would have started out calculated and intentional with the goal of making a point regarding the seriousness of how what was happening in the temple offended God, that sort of display, done by me, would most likely have rapidly escalated to something unruly, wild and carried away.

But then I'm trying to make Jesus fit into my box, remaking Jesus in my image, one that makes complete and total sense to me because I can understand just how that could happen. So I simply tack on the fact that only Jesus, as fully man and fully God without sin could display this sort of anger and passion towards those things that offend the Lord. 

I'd better not get that passionate about things because what if... 

And there I've got an excuse to live neat and tidy without risking those scary and powerful skidding-on-the-ice-I'm-not-in-control sort of moments. And I certainly won't have to worry about embarrassing myself, needing to explain my actions or risk offending anyone.

Except maybe my Savior... 

...by my lack of feeling and my timid, planned and measured response to those things that offend Him.

But according to the very ones who encountered Jesus at this moment? God's Word does not record that they remembered anger. They remembered zeal. His zeal for His Father's house.

Zeal... "fervent or enthusiastic devotion, often extreme or fanatical in nature, as to a religious movement, political cause, ideal, or aspiration... a feeling of strong eagerness... ardor, ardour, elan, avidity, avidness, eagerness, keenness - a positive feeling of wanting to push ahead with something... excessive fervor to do something or accomplish some end, fervency, fervidness, fervor, fervour, ardor, ardour, fire - feelings of great warmth and intensity... prompt willingness, eagerness, readiness, forwardness, willingness - cheerful compliance... enthusiasm, passion, zest, fire, spirit, warmth, devotion, verve, fervour, eagerness, gusto, militancy, fanaticism, ardour, earnestness, keenness, fervency his zeal for teaching..." (from freedictionary.com)

The disciples recalled a prophecy from Psalms: "For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up; And the reproaches of them that reproach thee are fallen upon me." (Psalm 69)

This vivid memory of willingness to risk stepping out to purify, protect and defend without fear of showing the deep-water emotions motivating such a response to something that offended God must have impacted those disciples greatly.

It is causing me to clearly focus on my shallow, less than whole-hearted responses to those things that offend my Savior.

And I wonder how those disciples discovered the balance between such whole-hearted and unrestrained devotion to what God deemed important versus the temptation to spiral out of control into angry sin.

How do you find a balance?

this week's gratitude list:
(#'s 3468 - 3495) 

thinking about Jesus' zeal for His Father's concerns... wondering how I can imitate Him in this area

pastor and members of South Church from Lansing, MI - here in Niamey to encourage and minister to the missions community - nothing like little tastes from home

another college acceptance letter for Bren

box from one of the sweetest families I know

hearing testimonies

a challenge to be humble, a servant, one who thinks of others more highly than myself

lots of time and opportunity to fellowship

this annual occasion to hear and see just what God is doing throughout this country

getting to visit with doctors here to begin training with the newly re-implemented PAACS program and their vision for ministry

late night movie marathons... The Mentalist!

dufflebag of birthday stuff from Gammie and Gampie

coffee house "date" with hubby

chicken curry for dinner

freshly mopped floors

chattering over coffee break with friends I don't get to see very often

sitting with my teens during the worship service - just because they WANT to sit with me

the whole-hearted, different spirit example of Caleb

plane tickets to Scotland

lists and plans and preparations

sorting, shuffling, decluttering, cleaning, dusting, giving

fun, albeit surprising, news from home that makes us smile


building memories

Mama and Daddy sharing clothes with their biggers - be it flannel shirts, jeans, shoes, skirts or scarves

we're now half and half - half in the youth group and half in the elementary program. 

loving watching these kids grow up... so fun! How can life get any better

ice cream sandwiches

raspberries in a can that came in a box mailed from the States... along with lots of other goodies

Posts in this series:


  1. Well, anger is a two-edged sword, and a dangerous one. Ephesians says to "be angry, and sin not," which leads me to believe that anger in itself is not wrong, but Ecclesiastes says, "Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools." I believe Jesus was truly angry, but did not sin. The zeal you mentioned that the disciples remembered is in Psalms. John 2:17 says, "And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." Jesus' actions made them think of Psalm 69:9, which says, "For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me." I can see how the disciples made the correlation, but David was actually talking about being hated for his zeal for God, not about righteous indignation.

  2. I agree with you about anger not necessarily being wrong. I just also know that most of us don't sin not when we get angry. At the very least, we have uncharitable thoughts that run through the mind...

    These verses do not say Jesus was angry. They do not say that He wasn't. It is easy to interpret/assume He was angry because of the behavior/actions described. But like I wrote, that is forcing Jesus into a box of what I can understand. What is said is that the lasting impression made upon His disciples was His zeal - the passion and intensity of feeling He then risked acting upon.

    I did reference the passage in Psalm 69, quoted in John 2 and yes, the context of the actual passage is as you mentioned. It is considered by most to be a Messianic psalm and in the context of John 2, it helps verify/testify to the disciples that Jesus was the Christ because of the zeal He manifested for the purity and holiness of His Father's house.


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