Jesus Got Angry
By Kay W. Camenisch
While on an outing with two special little friends, we went to a gift shop that had a basket of colorful hair clips displayed near the floor. It was like a magnet to Megan, the 18-month-old. Her four-year-old sister, Mollie soon joined her.
My correction, “No, no. Don’t touch” had no effect in getting little hands out of the basket, even when repeated. Finally, I spoke a little stronger, “Obey.” Immediately, both girls withdrew their hands and backed away. Mollie’s eyes filled with hurt and confusion.
I’d been studying anger in the Bible for several months, and I realized that Mollie reacted, as if to anger. I didn’t feel angry. Nor, did I think I was angry. Yes, my voice became harsh for the final word, but I reasoned that I needed to be firm to let them know I meant business. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that my actions showed all the signs of using anger to get what I wanted. Their reaction told me that I must have been angry, whether I I thought I was or not. I had manipulated the girls with harshness.
Obedience is important. If they don’t learn to obey earthly authority, they won’t obey God. It would be irresponsible not to address the issue. However, what appeared to be sound logic and justification did not erase the memory of both girls pulling away from me. They obeyed, but I had alienated them to gain obedience.
But Jesus got angry when He drove the traders and the livestock out of the temple. Therefore, it’s okay for me to get stern when I have just cause. Right?
When I looked more closely at the passage, I discovered that is not right.
Anger is generally a reaction rather than a response of action. However, because Jesus only did what He saw His Father doing, we know that His demonstration in the temple was not a reaction to the moneychangers. It was action in response to His Father.
Furthermore, if we are around someone who has an angry outburst, we want to fight back or withdraw and run. But that is not how people responded to Jesus.
- The disciples were reminded of a verse from Psalms. (Mark. 11:17)
- The multitude was listening to Jesus, making the chief priests and scribes afraid. (Mark 11:18)
- The blind and lame came to Him for healing. (Matthew 21:14)
- He taught in the temple the rest of the day and “the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things He did.” (Matt. 21:15)
- The children were crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” (Matt. 21:15)
People were drawn to Jesus after His “angry” outburst. Nobody pulled back like Mollie and Megan. The chief priests and scribes allowed Him to continue teaching and healing in the temple, and then reacted because of the response of others to Him. Could it be that rather than reacting in anger, Jesus was acting under authority?
Was He also taking authority–authority which was rightfully His as the Son of God? After questioning Him, the chief priests allowed Him to teach because He was acting as One under authority.
I’m grateful my relationship with my young friends was not permanently damaged, and that they have continued to learn and grow. I am especially grateful because I believe in this incident God’s purpose was for me to learn something.
Thanks to them, my eyes were opened
to see that I was angry more often than I thought. I also saw how easily anger affects relationships.
My harshness came from defending my own authority, not from a motivation to train in righteousness. I was seeking conformity to my way, not following the leadership of God. While trying to make them come under authority, I was out from under mine.
I still believe it is important to teach obedience, and that there needs to be consequences for disobedience. However, I’m learning to do it under authority so it will draw people to me—and to Jesus—rather than driving them away.
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Kay W. Camenisch is the author of Uprooting Anger: Destroying the Monster Within. She has been published in The Upper Room and The Lookout. Contemporary Drama has published one of her plays, and she is a regular contributor to a newspaper column. Kay is also a pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother. She has worked closely in ministry with her husband, including in local churches, as missionaries in Brazil, working with a church school, training young adults to mentor troubled youth, and establishing and directing a ranch for troubled young men.
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