I have had the privilege of counseling a great deal of angry people. Well, counseling angry people got me to thinking about the day Jesus got mad. I’d like to look at this from three different perspectives. Today will be the disciples perspective.
In John 2:13, we see Jesus and His disciples coming from Jesus’ first miracle into the temple for Passover. Now, to set the stage: This rag tag group of guys has been looking for a messiah and they believe they have found Him. They were recently at a wedding party where Jesus turned nasty water into wine and then they spent a few days just chilling with Jesus’ family. (v.12) I remember when I was young and my Father would have foreign dignitaries into our home for a few days at a time. One time, the president of the World Health Organization spent a few days in our home. I remember just sitting in the room and listening to this brilliant man discuss everything from classical music, to economics, to poverty, even basketball! He sat at the piano and played Autumn Leaves, then he played it the way Bach would have, then he played it the way Chopin would have, then the way the Beatles would have, then the way a jazz pianist would have. It was incredible. So I wonder… how stinking amazing would it be to spend a few days in casual conversation with Jesus, God in the flesh!
After this retreat, the disciples must have felt like they could fly! The things they would have learned, the joys they would have seen, the simple time spent in communion with Jesus after a miraculous experience would have made them want to dance into the temple musical style. Imagine the confidence. We’ve found the Messiah and we’re on His crew! Yeah! So, they head to Jerusalem… (notice in verse 13, John doesn’t include the disciples in this story. I think it’s because he’s a little scared of this side of Jesus and he wants to emphasize that the disciples didn’t really get it yet.) Jesus walks into the temple and sees the money changers and makes a whip. Now it takes a few minutes to make a whip. Not a half an hour or anything like that, but a few minutes. Can you imagine walking into worship with the most holy person you know? Imagine the discomfort when you are planning on worship, hoping to introduce this Messiah to your friends (some of whom volunteer at the money changing table occasionally), and you see the change in His eyes and you realize that you’ve missed something. This holy man you were walking with has suddenly become upset about something you didn’t even notice. Have you been there? You feel utterly sunk.
I can even imagine the conversation:
Peter: Dude, John… what’d you do? Why’s He all ticked off? (Peter would totally say “Dude”)
John: I didn’t say a word, I don’t know what He’s mad about. He just walked over there muttering something about prayer and oxen.
Peter: Did we forget the bread again?
John: Don’t bring that up, you’ll just get Him going on the Pharisees again.
Peter: Ask Him what’s wrong!
John: I’m not crazy bro. You ask him! (John would totally call Peter “bro” but in a cynical mocking way)
Andrew: Hey guys, why is Jesus making a whip?
Peter: A what?
John: Yeah man, He’s making a whip.
Thomas: I refuse to believe that it’s a whip until He hits someone with it.
Andrew: I think we should move over there where He won’t hit us with what Thomas refuses to believe is a whip.
James: (Laughing) Why is Jesus mad? Was Peter asking about bread again?
Peter: I still don’t get it, why’s He so… oh dang, He just flipped over that table… ouch, that must of hurt… I’m with Andrew… run away!
I’m being a little silly, but just think about it. That uncomfortable feeling that you get when you’ve missed something critical and you’re afraid you may be absolutely in the wrong. If you’re like me, you begin to catalog every bad thing you have ever done and trying to find a connection. That sick feeling you get in your stomach seems to affect everything. Your arms go weak, your mouth goes dry, your head begins to spin, and you feel the weight of failure beyond what you can stand because of something you can’t even see. You stand by and watch as the King walks over to the side of the room, muttering under his breath and begins to fashion a whip. It doesn’t take long, but you wait awkwardly not sure what to do. Those brief moments feel like an eternity and you are acutely aware that you smell a little odd, desperately need a drink, and are beginning to sweat. And then He explodes, beating people and flipping tables, yelling about righteousness. Some of your friends get beat out of the temple, maybe even one of your childhood buddies that you were hoping to introduce Jesus to.
All of a sudden, John tells us in verse 17, you remember the Bible and suddenly realize what you missed. The root of this anger is the House of God. Shame fills you for a moment as you realize that you were blind to something that has been dreadfully wrong all your life. Peter hangs his head and kicks a pebble on the ground and says something like, “I shoulda made a whip.” Then some of the men you used to admire come stomping up in anger demanding Jesus answer for His actions. It’s that moment when I imagine the urge to disown Jesus. You’re standing right next to Him, obviously His friend, near tears already, and your favorite pastors come walking up, stammering to try and contain their anger, and they demand an answer. I want you to imagine Sealy Smith, or Herman Coe, or Greg, or Mike, or Chuck, or Me walking up with a list of reasons that Jesus was in the wrong. (Though I am certain we would agree with Jesus, for the purpose of illustration, that is who the disciples saw stomping up to their Messiah.) Jesus, your King, answers these pastors, these second most holy people you’ve ever known, with a bizarre statement about razing the temple and rebuilding it. His answer doesn’t even make since! (We know this didn’t make since because John tells us they don’t get it until Jesus rises again. v.22)
Now let’s be honest, Peter’s taking some steps off to the side and looking at the wall as if he doesn’t know Jesus and so are we. Sometimes God’s anger doesn’t seem to make since to us. Sometimes Jesus says stuff that we really just don’t want to deal with. Sometimes what is true is far too inconvenient for us to even want to recognize. Maybe Jesus has said some things to you lately? Maybe you’ve seen some things in yourself that you would rather He not beat out of you? How are you going to respond? Are you going to admit that you were in the wrong, and maybe you need to start a repentance tour to all the people you have wronged? Are you going to insist that Jesus answer for His cleansing anger? Are you going to stare at the wall and hope Jesus doesn’t turn to talk to you?
You see, we like anger. But only when we’re the angry one and when we’re in the right. But what about when Jesus is angry and we’ve missed it? What do we do then? We can pretend that we are righteous. We can dismiss Jesus’ word as if He never made comments about our own wickedness and sin. We can pretend that Jesus never got angry and was all smiles, hugs, and candy. Or… we can be honest with ourselves and God, repent from our sins, repent from our failure to notice something so important about the God we say we love, and commit to obey and be more attentive to God’s word.