“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
Ephesians 4:26 (NIV)
 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,  because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 1:19 (NIV)
I dislike the term ‘righteous anger’. All too often it becomes and excuse for getting angry over something that we disapprove of. Today’s story is often used to justify the idea of righteous anger…if Jesus got angry, so can I!!
So…I’ve wrestled with this passage today, in an attempt to respect both Jesus and the scriptural account. These are my first thoughts…
 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling.  “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him.  Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.
Luke 19: 45-48 (NIV)
One of the things that disturbed me today as I searched for images for this blog post was the number of pictures that make Jesus look murderously angry (the one above isn’t too bad). It seems that just as we are often in danger of making God in our own image, so we wish to re-imagine Jesus so that he’s just as angry as we are. It seems that some of us are very angry people and we want our God to be the same!
I cannot deny that the gospel writers record instances of anger in Jesus life. Apart from today’s passage there is a memorable occasion in Mark chapter 3:
[3:1] Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there.  Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.  Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
 He looked around 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.  Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Mark 3: 1-6 (NIV)
What’s going on? One minute Jesus is weeping over the state of the nation and it’s rejection of God’s message and the messenger…in short it’s rejection of a God who didn’t fit their preconceptions…the next minute he’s making a scene in the Temple.
From tears to temper in a few footsteps?
Three things have helped me to begin to understand.
The first is that the whole sweep of scripture teaches that Jesus is the man of peace and compassion. Hijacking him to support violence and anger on the authority of one or two apparent aberrations seems very human, but not very smart. There must be more going on. Violence and anger are generally the results of our sin, and the Bible is very clear…Jesus was “tested in every way that we are, yet was without sin”…if he got angry his anger must have been quite unlike our anger, which leads us into sin of every kind (I know it could be argued that God has every right to be angry with us…but however some people have interpreted God’s character Jesus is our best revelation of what God is like…he was ‘God in a body’…so God must be like Jesus…more tears than temper…
Secondly, while I struggle with the definition of ‘righteous anger’ that we sometimes use, if Jesus was angry, but didn’t sin we need to look hard at the times he’s recorded as being angry. What’s his motivation for anger, and what does he do with the feelings of strong emotion. In both the passages I’ve referenced today it seems to me that God is being misrepresented in some way….by the uncaring and unbending attitude of the people in the synagogue to real need, and to the temple authorities who have made a business out of sin, guilt and forgiveness. Have a look at other instances of Jesus being angry if there are any and see what’s going on. I would certainly have to think hard before I took on the mantle of the Messiah and claimed to be righteously angry.
Finally, we must not forget that Jesus is in ‘Messiah mode’, if you’ll forgive the expression. The long awaited event of God’s return to Jerusalem and the Temple is being enacted before the eyes of all the people. The humble Messiah has ridden into Jerusalem on a donkey and now he sets about fulfilling another Messianic act…
[3:1] “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.
 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.  He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,  and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
Malachi 3: 1-6
The prophet suggests that the coming of the Lord will not happen in the way everyone is expecting…he will come with demands that people clean up their act and show God some respect.
And of course, just as was predicted, the people are in no mood to accept a humble, peaceful and compassionate Messiah; the plotting begins…
Anger need to be handled with great care.