A Different Way of Looking at Jesus: Angry

by: Larry Davies | Aug 4, 2010

“How would you describe Jesus in one or two words?” I asked the youth in our Bible study. They used words such as: love, goodness, humble, pious, kind, caring, devout, meek and gentle. “So, what would Jesus look like based on what you saw in the movies or read in the Bible?” They mentioned long hair, pale skin and a constant smile… like a flower child of the 1960’s holding two fingers in a ‘V’ saying… “I’m for peace, man.” Still, another student’s description reminded me of Mister Rogers as he pats a child on the head and says… “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood. Will you be my neighbor?”

But… do you know anyone wanting to arrest Mr. Rogers, torture him for hours on end and then hang him up on a cross until he dies? (Maybe after watching a few hours of reruns?) Nah! I don’t think so. Apparently, Jesus was no flower child or Mr. Rogers. Yes, Jesus can certainly be described as loving, full of goodness, humble, pious, kind, caring, devout, meek and gentle but there is so much more…

Why were the Jews so enraged at Jesus? Good question. I found interesting answers in the twenty third chapter of Matthew: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. (Matthew 23:1-3)

Who are the scribes and Pharisees and why is Jesus chastising them?

Scribes and Pharisees describe a group of experts on Jewish law formed long before Jesus birth. Surrounded by Greek culture and Roman occupation, the Jewish people were slowly losing their identity as people devoted to following God’s law. Pharisees took a heroic stand to once again follow God’s law whatever the consequences. In many ways, they were heroes for their faith. In other words, scribes and Pharisees were the most dedicated church folks in town. People like you and me.

Imagine a world famous spiritual leader such as Billy Graham or the Pope visiting your church. The entire community gathers to hear the message. On the front row sits the pastor and church leaders. The speaker steps up to the pulpit and calmly faces the congregation. He thrusts his arm toward the front row and shouts: “You pastors and church leaders sit in nice buildings with thickly padded pews and stained glass windows. You may be good teachers but you do not practice what you teach.”

Are you beginning to understand why the scribes and Pharisees were so offended? Wait! There is more. Throughout chapter twenty three of Matthew, Jesus goes on to proclaim:

  • Verse 13: How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.
  • Verse 15: Yes, How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.
  • Verse 16: Blind guides! How terrible it will be for you!
  • Verse 23: How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.
  • Verse 25: How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.
  • Verse 27: How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.
  • Verse 29: How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees.

Then Jesus shouts the harshest condemnation of all… Verse 33: “Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Wow! Strong language! When someone you know becomes angry frequently you don’t pay much attention to each outburst but when a person like Jesus who is known for being loving, calm and compassionate blows his top… you wake up and take notice.

Why is Jesus so angry? Also, why is he so angry at pastors, Sunday school teachers, choir members, Administrative Board chairpersons, deacons, elders and other leaders of local churches?

Most of all, why is Jesus so angry at me?

The answers may surprise you or even infuriate you but then you will begin to understand why Jesus had to die so that we may live.

PART 2

“Blind guides! How terrible it will be for you… Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Strong language from a Jesus most of us would describe using only loving and compassionate language. Even more surprising, his outburst was aimed at Pharisees who were considered among the most religious folks in the community. They could be your Sunday school teacher, a member of your choir, an elder or even your pastor. Ouch! Why was Jesus so angry?

In chapter 23 of Matthew: Jesus said, “How terrible it will be for you…” Then he explained why:

 

  • “Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes…” Traditionally, Jews wear prayer boxes on their arms or foreheads but Pharisees had to wear big boxes. Many Christians wear crosses but yours has to be a “big” cross, complete with flashing lights. Big deal!
  • “You won’t let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven…” You almost had to be born a Jew to become a Jew. There was solid evidence that Romans and Greeks were interested in the one God of the Jews but there was little or no encouragement from the Pharisees. We too frequently condemn someone for what is humanly lacking rather than offer praise for what God is changing.
  • “You cross land and sea to make one convert and then you turn them into twice the son of hell as you yourselves are…” The Pharisees were teaching Jews to obey the law and be good Pharisees rather than holy people of God. Which is more important? What are we teaching Christians today?
  • “You say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple’… but then you say that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’” Pharisees were experts at swearing oaths then changing the rules. Today, it’s called aggressive advertising to announce a ridiculously low price and then bury the truth in fine print. We marry for life but also seek prenuptial agreements… just in case.  Sad!
  • “You are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income but you ignore the important things of the law – justice, mercy and faith.” It would be like finding a dollar on the street and while driving to church to give a tenth you pass right by an auto accident and a house fire. Cold! Really cold!
  • “You are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish but inside you are filthy…” I have a bad habit of leaving half-filled coffee cups throughout the church. If you happen to find one several weeks later, it may be potential penicillin but what’s inside that cup is not a pretty sight. Sunday is often the day we put on our best outfits but what about the inside? It isn’t pretty. Ugh!
  • You are like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity.” Jesus is repeating the same point so it must be important. The tombs may be beautiful on the outside but just inside is still dead bones. Ecch!

Let’s see if I understand what Jesus is saying:

  1. Everything we do is for show… We must really think we are hot stuff…
  2. We are far too quick to condemn and way too slow to praise…
  3. We place a higher priority on serving the church than serving God…
  4. Our word is no longer sacred… even our contracts have escape clauses…
  5. We major in the minors and completely miss the foundations of our faith…
  6. We may be clean on the outside but inside we are filthy…
  7. We may look good on the outside but inside we are dead…

No one enjoys receiving a tongue lashing. Especially when those being lashed consider themselves respectable, law-abiding, upright citizens. “How dare Jesus talk to us like we are common thugs! Who does He think he is… God!” Are you beginning to understand where this is leading? The Pharisees began to gather in their meetings to talk about how to deal with Jesus. They soon had an answer… Jesus was arrested on trumped up charges, whipped, beaten and crucified until he died.

Are you beginning to understand why the Pharisees reacted to Jesus’ harsh condemnation with rage? Do you also understand that this response is wrong and not what Jesus wanted from them or expects from us? This is the crucial part of the story. If the Pharisees were wrong… what is right? What reaction did Jesus want? What response does Jesus expect from today’s church leaders… from you… from me?

PART 3

A few years ago, I watched an interview with Dick Morris. Dick was President Clinton’s political advisor who resigned in disgrace after pictures showing him with a prostitute surfaced in the news. He wrote a book portraying his savvy political advice as the secret weapon which saved Clinton’s presidency. Frankly, I was not impressed but something he said during the interview caught my attention.

“There are two personalities at war within us,” Morris said. “One is the hard working professional who handles everything with ease. Another personality is addicted and cannot control his or her desires whether it be sex, drugs, alcohol or other pleasures.” In other words, “I confess to being caught red-handed but please buy my book or watch my interview because I was sick and couldn’t help myself.”

Excuses! Excuses may make good talk show material or books but they do not impress God.

For the last two weeks we have studied a different side of Jesus: angry. Why was he angry and who were the Pharisees Jesus was angry with? Among the most religious folks in the community, Pharisees could be your Sunday school teachers, members of your choir, your pastor or… even you. Jesus said, “How terrible it will be for you…” Then in the 23rd chapter of Matthew, he explained:

  1. Everything we do is for show… We must really think we are hot stuff…
  2. We are far too quick to condemn and way too slow to praise…
  3. We place a higher priority on serving the church than serving God…
  4. Our word is no longer sacred… even our contracts have escape clauses…
  5. We major in the minors and completely miss the foundations of our faith…
  6. We may be clean on the outside but inside we are filthy…
  7. We may look good on the outside but inside we are dead…

We know how the Pharisees responded to their tongue-lashing. Jesus was arrested, whipped, beaten and murdered. Wrong answer but how should we respond? “I have two personalities at war within me?” Give me a break! This is the crucial part of the story. If the Pharisees were wrong… what is right? Jesus is as intense and passionate as you will ever see as he cries out to the Pharisees and us:

“O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now look, your house is left to you, empty and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mat. 23:37-39)

  • You kill the prophets. No Excuses! Anger will do you no good. God is looking for courage which involves absolute honesty and integrity. Face your wrongdoing! Confess your sins!
  • …as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings. We expect and deserve God’s wrath. What we receive is a loving parent eager to shield a cherished child. Confession restores God’s love.
  • But you wouldn’t let me. An unwillingness to confess is actually worse than the sin itself because you deny God the opportunity to be a loving parent. Refuse to confess and you reject God.
  • …your house is left to you, empty and desolate. As wrongdoing accumulates, fair-weather friends disappear, leaving you to face the consequences alone. Refusing to confess leads to isolation.
  • Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord! There comes a time when all of us need to ask, “Who should be in charge of my life?” Confession places ultimate authority with God.

Face your wrongdoing. Have the courage to confess your sins. Accept God’s authority. At this point, I picture Jesus with tears in his eyes as he describes a loving mother hen shielding her chicks beneath her strong wings. What a beautiful portrayal of God’s longing to comfort, protect and restore you and me. The alternative is refuse to confess, reject God’s love offering and face a future of emptiness.

Jesus was angry because people who should know better were avoiding the truth. We may look good on the outside but inside, we are filthy. The Pharisees responded with rage. Dick Morris wrote a book filled with excuses. How will you respond? It may be the most important decision you ever make.


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