Most people know Jesus was angry when He drove the money-changers out of the temple, but that’s not the only time the Bible tells us Jesus was angry. In a lesser known account in Mark 3:1-6 we are told about another time Jesus was angry.
On a Saturday Jesus went to the synagogue presumably to worship and there was a man there with a shriveled hand. There were also some critics of Jesus there to watch Him to see if He would heal on the Sabbath.
To make sure everyone present was on the same page so to speak, Jesus first asked the man with the shriveled hand to stand up in front of everyone. Then He asked a question, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But His critics remained silent. It was a question they could not answer. Of course it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath day! Given the opportunity, not to do good was in essence to do evil.
The primary thing I want us to see is what happened next: “He looked at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” Some may be surprised at Jesus’ anger because they have always pictured Him as meek and gentle. And He is, but that does not mean He could never be angry.
Jesus was angry with His critics because of their “stubborn hearts.” They didn’t care about the man with a shriveled hand. They had no interest in him; they only saw the opportunity to accuse Jesus. Stubborn hearts can be calloused and cruel. What are we to make of Jesus anger? Isn’t anger bad, isn’t it sinful? If Jesus was angry it is not always bad and sinful.
The Bible does teach that anger is dangerous and warns us about inappropriate anger. In Ephesians 4:26 the Apostle Paul quotes the Old Testament admonition “In your anger do not sin,” warning us that when angry we are more susceptible to sin. And in I Corinthians the Apostle Paul tells us “Love is not easily angered.”
When we are angry usually our emotions are on edge; we are less restrained and more likely to say or do something we normally would not do or say. We know how dangerous anger can be because we have seen it in others, and more importantly–we have seen it in ourselves. Inappropriate and uncontrolled anger can hurt others and destroy our wider Christian testimony.
But anger is not always wrong. Ephesians 4:26 warns, “In your anger do not sin.” But it does not say anger is sin. I Corinthians 13:5 says, “Love is not easily angered.” But it does not say “love never gets angry.” The Bible warns us about anger, but it does not totally forbid anger. Jesus’ anger was appropriate and godly; and I think for two reasons.
First, because of what it was that made Him angry. There is a place for righteous anger. There are some things we should get mad about. But I find it so instructive to note all the times in Jesus’ ministry when He didn’t get angry when most of us would have. Jesus became angry at the right things.
The other reason Jesus’ anger was appropriate was because of what His anger led Him to do as well as what it did not result in. Anger is ok if we are angry for the right reason; and anger is ok as long as it results in our doing the right thing and not the wrong thing. Jesus gives us the example. Anger can motivate us and give us energy to make a positive difference.
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