Summary: Monday reveals a side of Jesus many would rather not have to deal with. Everybody likes a Jesus who teaches us to love our neighbors and takes little children into his arms. People honor a miracle worker who heals the sick and promises to answer our pra
Day by Day with Jesus Series
What Makes Jesus Mad
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
On Sunday, Jesus entered the city riding on the foal of a donkey. But he came in humility. Warrior kings rode in on prancing stallions. Jesus came on a donkey. He also came with tears in his eyes for the city that would reject his offer of grace. On Monday, the tears have turned to fire. His eyes blaze with indignation.
Between now and Easter weekend, we are following Jesus day by day through the last week of his life. This week, from Palm Sunday to Good Friday and on to Resurrection Weekend, was the most important week of Jesus’ life. This was what it was all about. Everything he had done for his entire thirty-three years and especially his three and half year ministry led up to this week. If we don’t understand the significance of his last week, I doubt very much if we grasp who Jesus was and what he to do for us. These events matter.
Monday reveals a side of Jesus many would rather not have to deal with. Everybody likes a Jesus who teaches us to love our neighbors and takes little children into his arms. People honor a miracle worker who heals the sick and promises to answer our prayers. They eagerly quote the Jesus who says, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” There is something nice and comforting about the baby in the manger, the calmer of storms, and the forgiver of sins. Monday presents a disturbingly different portrait of our savior.
Two events take place. First, on the way into town, he curses a barren fig tree. It eventually withers and dies. He then heads straight for the Jewish temple and forcibly drives the merchants and moneychangers from the outer court. This Jesus has fire in his eyes and fierce indignation in his heart. There is no way around it. Jesus was good and mad.
For some people this raises a bit of a problem. Some define anger as a sin. But the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was without sin. How do we make this match up? Perhaps we are misreading Jesus’ attitude. More likely, we misunderstand anger.
Christian psychologist Dr. David Seamands has a helpful comment. “The person who cannot feel anger at evil is a person who lacks enthusiasm for good. If you cannot hate wrong, it’s very questionable whether you really love righteousness.” That explains a rather curious statement in the New Testament. Ephesians 4: 26 says, “In your anger do not sin.” The KJV renders it, “Be angry, but sin not.” Temper tantrums are always evil. Anger that boils over into vile words and vengeful attacks is never good. But a person who does not feel angry and indignant at evil knows nothing of the righteousness of God.
Jesus carefully planned these events. Both the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the temple were really acted out parables. The Old Testament prophets often used object lessons to make a point. Jeremiah paraded through the streets with a yoke about his neck to warn of God’s judgment. Ezekiel packed his bags and carried them through the streets to predict the coming exile of the nation. Likewise, Jesus cursed the tree and drove the money changes from the temple because he wanted to illustrate important truths. These two events provide a clear picture of the things that makes Jesus good and mad. They still do.
Jesus gets mad when he sees promise without performance. That the lesson of the fig tree. I won’t go into all of the details about fig trees and when and how they produced fruit. Apparently, even though it wasn’t the normal fig season, if leaves were present, fruit of some kind should have been present. But there wasn’t! But there’s more to story than meets the eye.
The fig true was one of the national symbols of Israel. His message—any people, even his chosen people, who professes faith in God but do not live that life will face the same fate as the fig tree. They stand under a curse from God. Earlier Jesus had taught a similar lesson in a spoken parable. Luke 13, “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 8“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (6-9).