Originally published at https://www.rethinknow.org
Many of us have this picture of Jesus as a passive white guy that speaks in hushed tones and, for some reason, is always holding a sheep. That picture is wrong on many levels. And maybe the biggest mistake we could make is thinking of Jesus as a mild-tempered, never raised his voice, kind of guy. That was not Jesus. He got mad on many occasions. The question we need to ask is: what made Jesus mad?
If we are following Jesus then what made Jesus mad should also make us mad.
You might also like: 6 Things Jesus Never Said (but Christians believe)
We will look at what made Jesus mad in a minute. First, I want to address righteous anger. We often view anger as an emotion we should avoid- a sin. But our anger isn’t the problem, it’s what we do with our anger that determines if we sin or not (Ephesians 4:26).
In fact, there are things in this world that should make us angry. We should be outraged by injustices, violence, greed, poverty, and death that run rampant all around us. That should stir up an anger deep within us because it’s just not right. That anger is good; it’s a righteous anger. It’s the same anger that God feels when he sees the evil that is so pervasive in the world.
Righteous anger over evil is good, but in our anger, we should not sin. In other words, we might be tempted to fight evil with evil. Through Jesus, we are shown a better way. When stones are thrown at us, we don’t throw them back. Instead, we love. Yes, that’s unfair. Yes, that could cost us. But only love can truly stop evil.
And that’s exactly what Jesus did. When he got angry over the evil in this world, he never stooped to its level. In his anger, he did not sin.
So, what made Jesus mad?
What Made Jesus Mad
As we look at what made Jesus mad, I would encourage push back against the urge to point the finger. It’s really easy to see how those people did something that made Jesus mad, butit’s really hard to see it in ourselves. Instead of pointing the finger, look in the mirror.
Alright, let’s jump in… Here’s what made Jesus mad.
1. The Human Condition
Humanity exists in a broken state, a fallen world. That should come as no surprise, the evidence is everywhere. Kids are starving, people are dying, broken families are the norm, mental health crises abound, war is commonplace, and pain and turmoil exist around every corner. We are not okay.
And Jesus was angry about it.
This is most clearly seen in John 11:35, the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” Jesus was so overcome by the human condition, the death a friend faced, that he wept.
I think in this moment Jesus is reacting to the fallen condition of his people. He is distraught that people he cares for are experiencing pain. He was not overcome with grief over the loss of a friend. Why did Jesus weep? Because he feels empathy for his people.
Jesus feels empathy, but he responds with anger. In John 11:38, Jesus was deeply moved and yelled for Lazarus to come out. Jesus was mad over the human condition.
That’s the short version of that story, read more about this encounter here: Why Jesus Wept (and why we should too)
What made Jesus mad? The human condition because Jesus feels empathy for what we are facing.
2. Rules Being Placed Over People
The religious leaders in Jesus day tended to value adherence to the law over caring for people, which is not what God intended. The rules God established were supposed to help his people stay in right relationship with him and others. The heart of the law was missed in the pursuit of following the law. In other words, they cared more about obeying the rules preciously that they missed what the rules were supposed to lead to.
And let’s be honest, we are no better today, are we?
Jesus continually broke the rules that the religious set up. Now to be clear, Jesus didn’t break the law that God had established. Rather he broke the extra rules the religious leaders put in place to protect the law, and that made a lot of people mad.
Maybe the best example is Jesus healing on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10, Luke 13:10–17, Luke 6:7, John 9:16). To the religious leaders, that was a no-no, because you were supposed to rest.
Jesus pushed back on this attitude and showed that people were more important. He healed people right in front of the Pharisees, just to show how serious he was.
What made Jesus mad? Rules that kept people from him.
3. Kids Being Pushed Aside
Jesus had a special spot in his heart for kids. He promises justice for those who harm kids, claims you must be like a child to enter his kingdom, and always made room for kids (Mark 9:36–37, Matthew 18:14, Luke 9:47–48).
One time, the disciples tried to rebuke Jesus for the time he was giving to kids… Big mistake. Jesus wasn’t having it and insisted that kids deserve a seat in the kingdom of God (Mark 10:13–16, Matthew 19:13–14). We often push kids aside, but Jesus never did.
I’m not the most emotional person, but since having a child of my own, I find myself exponentially more emotional about anything regarding kids. It’s hard for me to not get choked up when I see a story about a sick, abused, or neglected child.
I imagine God’s heart is like that. Whenever a child is sick, hurt, in distress, lonely, abandoned, hungry, being abused, or told lies, I believe God is deeply moved. We see that in Jesus as he walked this earth. He loves kids and can’t stand to see them hurt.
What made Jesus mad? Kids being pushed aside.
4. Self-Righteous Judgmentalism (Religious Phonies)
We love to think we are better than them, don’t we? At least I’m not as bad as so and so… We often think too highly of ourselves; we aren’t as good as we think we are. And Jesus got mad at those who thought they were all that.
Most commonly, Jesus got mad at the religious leaders because really, they were just religious phonies. They pretended to be good, but in reality, they were just as messed up as everyone else. But they refused to admit and acknowledge their own sin.
Jesus famously calls out this hypocrisy by saying they wash the outside of the cup but ignore the inside (Matthew 23:25–32). They cared more about what people thought of them, that they would appear to be righteous. In doing so, they ignored the dirtiness of their heart. In other words, they ignored what was more important for the sake of appearances.
It’s important to note Jesus wasn’t mad at them because of their sin. He was mad because they pretended they were better than they were. Jesus came for the sinners and the sick, but he got mad at those who were self-righteous.
What made Jesus mad? The religious leaders that pretended to have it all together, while ignoring the sinfulness of their heart.
5. Making It Difficult For People To Get To God
This one and the last one go hand in hand. The reason Jesus often got mad at the religious phonies is they made it hard for people to get to God. They complicated the rules, sold sacrifices for a profit, and belittled those who weren’t as “good” as them.
All this so they could look better and feel better about themselves.
Listen, let’s not point fingers. We do this ALL the time in our minds and behind people’s backs. We tear people down so that we look better. We are no better.
This attitude made Jesus mad.
This is ultimately what caused Jesus to flip tables in the temple twice (John 2:13–17, Matthew 21:12–17). What was happening was the religious leaders were selling the sacrifices required by God’s law for a profit. In other words, poor families who traveled far and at great expense to follow God’s law were extorted, when they should have been helped.
That pissed off Jesus. This is where we see Jesus at his angriest. He makes a whip and drives them out. Why? Because they were making it harder for people to get to God all so they could make a few bucks.
Want to make Jesus mad? Keep people he loves (which is everyone btw) from having access to him.
What made Jesus mad? People that made it more difficult to get to God.
6. Selfish Ambition
Again, this one builds off the previous, but I think there’s an important distinction. Jesus often got mad when people had ulterior motives or selfish ambitions. He critiques the Pharisees for praying loudly in public (Matthew 6:5) because they were doing so for their own gain. He once said he preferred the pennies of a widow to the large bags of coins from the Pharisees (Mark 12:41–44). He was admonishing the Pharisees because they didn’t care about the heart of giving. It was all a show, and that made Jesus mad.
We tend to view God as a police officer. He just wants us to obey the law and if we don’t, he’ll get us. But he’s not really after a submissive people who just blindly follow him. He’s interested in a relationship with his people. He wants our heart. Often what happens is we miss that the rules are there to bring us closer to him.
We see this attitude through Jesus. He saw through the facades that people put up. They were doing the right actions, but for the wrong reasons. Jesus was more interested in what was going on in their hearts and not what they portrayed outwardly.
What made Jesus mad? People that were doing the right things for selfish reasons.
Let me add a closing thought. Jesus’ anger was almost always directed towards the religious,and occasionally his followers. Interestingly, he rarely got mad about the injustices done to him; and people said and did some pretty nasty things to him. Instead, his anger came out when someone was being kept from him. Jesus wanted all people to have the opportunity to know his love for them and when that opportunity was squashed by a rule, a person, or a system, he got mad.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not like that. Most often my anger is directed towards those that have wronged me. Maybe that’s you too. And listen, I get it. We have valid reasons for being mad at that person. They deserve it, but we follow a God that gave us what we needed instead of what we deserved. Jesus modeled this. He didn’t lash out, even though he had every right to. Instead, he reserved his anger for those that were being neglected and abused. May we too show anger for what made Jesus mad. And may we be able to point to the cross where ALL of God’s wrath was satisfied, even for abusers.
If you want to keep studying this topic check out: What Made Jesus Mad by Tim Harlow