The Lord's Indignation
Glen Burnie, Maryland
There are few examples in the Scriptures when the Lord displayed anger while on this earth, but it is interesting when we note the occasions he did show displeasure.
(1) "And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he said to the man which had the withered hand, >Stand forth!' And he said unto them, >Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life or to kill?' But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them in anger, being grieved for their hardness of heart, he saith to the man, `Stretch forth thy hand.' And he stretched forth his hand and it was restored whole as the other" (Mark 3:1-5).
(2) "And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them `Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God'" (Mark 10:13,14).
(3) "Jesus went up to the temple and found those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of the money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep and the oxen; and poured out the changer's money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, `Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise!' And his disciples remembered that it was written: `The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up'" (Jno. 2:12-17).
Man Or The Sabbath?
Jesus was able to deal with most injustice and ignorance with patience and longsuffering. What is it that so moved the Lord to anger in these three instances? Do they all have something in common?
In the healing of the cripple Jesus was angered at the Jews for putting observance of ritual over real service to a fellow man. The learned Rabbis held the "common people" in great contempt. Jesus saw each soul, regardless of his ability, education, or background as a person worth more than all the riches of the world (Matt. 16:26). Jesus came to "heal those who are sick," and ate with publicans and sinners. When he preached, he invited such to draw near unto him. To the pious Pharisee and scribe, this kind of behaviour drew contempt that later changed to malice.
But beyond their contempt for the humility of Jesus, they held him guilty for presuming to lay aside their orthodoxy for the petty needs of one of these "common people." On the Sabbath day all work was forbidden (Ex. 20:8-11). But the Jews had determined that healing was work. According to Barclay, "Medical attention could be given only if a life was in danger. To take some examples - a woman in childbirth might be helped on the Sabbath. An affection of the throat might be treated. But, a fracture could not be attended to. Cold water could not be poured on a sprain. A cut finger might be bandaged, but no ointment could be put on it" (Mark, D.S.B., p. 62).
The Jews did not see the Sabbath as a servant of man, but man as a servant of the Sabbath. Jesus had previously shown that the needs of man came before any ritual law (Mk. 2:2428). Jesus was angry because of the rigid way in which these Jews sought to please God by putting a system above the needs of people. He openly defied their insular code by healing the withered arm, and knowingly brought down the enmity of these religious leaders upon his head.
Bother Or Blessing?
In the event within the coasts of Judea, Jesus was angered at his disciples because they rebuked the parents who had brought their children for Jesus to touch. It is difficult to think of the disciples as being boorish, unloving men. They were probably trying to shield Jesus from the bother of a crowd of little children and their doting parents. They were trying to "protect" Jesus from the crush of the masses by eliminating those who would only "waste" his time.
But, here again, we see the indignation of the Lord blaze out against those who would put form or convenience above people. In every one, whether cripple or young, Jesus saw an immortal, God-given nature capable of fellowship with the Creator, and always of infinite worth. Jesus felt very strongly that his disciples were misrepresenting him by sending anyone away, and inflicting great wrong upon those who sought to come to him. We can see the true character of the living Word, in that it was with affection and compassion he took them up in his arms, and laid his hands upon them. He blessed them and gave them his gracious care and protection. "Of such" he said of these infants, "are the Kingdom of Heaven."
Profit Or Piety?
When Jesus' wrath was brought down on those who bought and sold in the outer Temple courts, he was emotionally moved at the exploitation of the hearts of men in their service to God. Here, within the precincts of the building set aside for the worship of God, men made money from the religious service of pious people. In a place where there should have been prayer and communion with God, there was the noise and hubbub of the market place. In a place where there should only have been sacrifice, there was the selling of birds and animals for a profit. In a place where men should have been giving their offerings to God, there was the rattle and scraping of the money changers. To the religious leaders of the Jews, the hard earned coins the pilgrims brought from home were "unclean" and unfit to offer to Jehovah. So they offered "clean" coins at a considerable profit. Likewise, home grown sacrifices were not acceptable. One must buy the "special" doves, sheep, and oxen that the Priests would readily make available-at a definite profit.
The service men sought to give to God was seized upon by those who saw a way to make money from it. Men and their worship had become merely objects to be manipulated for profit. Jesus was so moved by such behavior that he used violent means to purge his Father's house of that "den of "thieves."
What Do They Hold In Common?
What is it that these three examples hold in common? Just this: Jesus was driven- to outrage by the total selfishness and callous indifference demonstrated by "religious" men to human need. Jesus reacted to this attitude in men consistently with passionate anger. He left all to come to this world to take men's sins away on the cross of Golgotha. In the face of the cross, he was confronted with men who were so wrapped up in the physical or the ritualistic that they ignored the needs of those for whom he was willing to die. No hotter contempt is found anywhere than Jesus' words to the self-centered scribes and pharisees (Matt. 23; "Woe unto you. . . ."). Nowhere else in the scriptures do we find more cutting portrayals of the hypocrisy of the "religiously pious" Jews than in the parables of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), the Unmerciful Servant (Matt. 18:23-35), the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14), or in the Marriage of the King's Son (Matt. 22:1-14).
But, Am I Guilty?
Today we have men who will use brethren and churches to advance their own causes. Whether for prestige or pocketbook, they make merchandise of the simple people who seek to please God. We have our modern money changers who see the church only as a vast resource to be tapped for their own schemes. This attitude can be seen in those preachers who use the pulpit as a means to push everything from soap to their latest scheme in personal work. On a larger scale, we see it in all the "projects" thought up by brethren around the world-that all ultimately bring glory or income to the one pushing his "godly" product.
We see this attitude in those self-serving preachers who move from one place to another motivated only by a desire for more. We see it in churches who hoard their resources while the needs of the Gospel go wanting. They "hang on" for a day that will never come. We see this attitude in those brethren who have never converted one, nor made an effort. These brethren believe that their "faithful" attendance and paltry contribution weekly will assure them of God's approval. We see this attitude in the discrimination and snobbery practiced against those who have nothing to offer in the way of prestige, power, or glory.
Yes. It is easy to understand why the Lord was angry. We must wonder what his words will be to us when we meet him in the Judgment. Will they be, "Come ye blessed of my Father. . ."? or will they be "Depart from me, ye cursed . . ."? The answer lies in how we treated men while we were on this earth (Matt. 25:31-46).
Truth Magazine, XVIII:45, p. 6-7