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Was Jesus ever angry?

This is the challenging question that opens chapter 7 of 'Introduction to the Jesus Life' by Jan Johnson.  It goes on:

Was Jesus ever angry?  Would a Saviour so full of compassion also be angry?

Many people claim he was angry, and they seem pleased by this.  They think it makes Jesus more human and more approachable.  Others, especially those who as children experienced adults' ferocious anger, hope Jesus wasn't.

It's important to set aside what we hope is true and look carefully at the gospel texts, because truth is both more nuanced and more marvelous than this.    For example, most people assume Jesus was angry when he cleansed the temple (see Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-6; John 2:13-17).  None of the texts, however say he was angry or mention his feelings or tone of voice.  Some say that his using a whip is a clue that he was angry, but would Jesus vent anger on animals by beating them, or did he use the whip as a way to move them along?......

Jan Johnson suggests any anger Jesus might have is very different from ours.  She then unpacks the only instance in the gospels where it explicitly states Jesus was angry (Mark 3:1-6).  Despite the many external reasons to be angry at  religious leaders, the stated reason behind Jesus anger is his grief at their stubbornness or 'hardness of heart'.

Jesus way of being angry involves:
  • A heart focused on what is best for the other person
  • A heart free from bitterness or defensiveness, and
  • A heart of compassion for the other party
Jan Johnson encourages us that it is possible for us to grow into that as well!

If you are interested, why not buy or borrow the book.  For those who attend Stonnington Baptist Church we will be having a discussion on this after church on Sunday 2nd August 2009.

David Wanstall, 28/07/2009