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Cleansing the Temple
When Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers and animal-sellers, He exhibited holy anger (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; John 2:13-22). His angry spirit was a holy “zeal” for the sacredness of the temple as the house of God (John 2:17).
Jesus cleansed the temple two times during His earthly ministry. The first cleansing took place in the spring of A.D. 28, at the beginning of His early Judean ministry (John 2:13–17). By this act, He declared His authority and announced His mission as the Messiah at the Passover.
When Jesus heard the noise and saw the bargaining in God’s dwelling place (Exodus 25:8), He rushed to cleanse the temple and took a “whip” and drove “those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business” (John 2:14). And He said, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:16).
By making the sacred symbols of the temple a source of personal profit, the rulers were making sacred things common and robbing both God of His honor and the worshipers of an opportunity to know the truth. Those who earnestly seek to make their Father’s house a “house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13) should not make it a place for unholy thoughts, words, or actions. Rather, they should cleanse the temple and be reverent in His holy presence (John 4:23, 24). They should worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
Jesus’ disciples remembered that it was written, “the Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up” (John 2:17). This is a quote from Psalms 69:9. Jesus earnestly desired that His Father’s house should be used exclusively for worship (Exodus 25:8, 9; Matthew 21:13). At this point, the temple officials confronted Him immediately asking Him for a sign to prove His authority. So, He gave them the undeniable sign of His resurrection from the death (John 2:18-20).
Three years later, Jesus cleansed the temple again, at the end of His public ministry. This took place at the fourth Passover, just after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem the last week of His life (Matthew 21:12–17; Mark 11:15–19: Luke 19:45–48). At this time, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).
Anger at the Religious Leaders
Another reference in the Bible for Jesus showing anger was in the synagogue of Capernaum. This took place when the Pharisees refused to answer His question regarding whether it is lawful to heal the man with withered hands on the Sabbath. “And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other” (Mark 3:5).
Jesus was “grieved” because the religious teachers in Israel used their authority to teach a falsehood about the character and demands of God. Without a doubt He was also “grieved” because of the consequences this would bring upon them and upon those who listened to their teachings. Righteous indignation has a most essential part in stirring people to fight against evil. Jesus was not angered by any personal affront, but by the hypocritical attitude to God and the injustices done to His children (Mark 3:5).
What Does the Bible Teach About Anger?
“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). The quotation is from the LXX of Psalm 4:4. The anger, here, spoken of is the righteous indignation. A Christian who is not aroused to the point of indignation by the evil deeds and corruptions may be inconsiderate.
The only anger without sin is the anger against sin. God hates sin, but He loves the sinner. Fallen humans too often hate the sinner and love sin. Anger against a wrong act, without evil intentions, is regarded as a good characteristic. Justifiable anger is directed against the wrong act not the wrongdoer. To be able to separate the two is a great Christian achievement.
The Bible gives us a defense against abusing righteous indignation. While there should always be an indignation against sin, hate should be shunned because it slowly kills the soul. God’s Word warns lest justifiable anger leads to harboring personal resentment, feelings of revenge, and loss of control. A true Christian should be able to restrain his temper (Job 5:2; Proverbs 15:18; Romans 12:18).
A good test of the nature of one’s anger is whether the offended one is willing to pray for the one causing the offense or not. The apostle James gives this valuable advice against being angry, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).
In His service,
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