“Some emergent types want to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in his hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down his leg, a sword in His hand, and a commitment to make someone bleed. This is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” – Mark Driscoll, Pastor, Mars Hill Bible Church, Seattle.
These are some harsh words coming from Mr. Driscoll about Jesus, who also said, “Blessed are the meek,” and “Love your enemies.” However, he does have a point: many people do want to paint Jesus as a wuss who never stood up for anyone, but somehow managed to save the world from sin. Go figure.
15And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus just laid the smackdown! Never, ever mess with a man’s dad’s house!
OK, so we can at least demonstrate Mark is correct about Jesus not being a total pansy, but truth be told, many opponents of Christian nonviolence misconstrue this to show that Jesus was violent when the time called for it. Well, in my opinion, not exactly.
For one, in none of the Gospel accounts does it ever show Jesus actually hitting someone. Now, the Gospel writers, being human, could have left out details whether intentionally or by mistake (John even talks about not writing down everything Jesus did because there aren’t enough books in the world to hold accounts of all the great things he did), but this in no way means that the account was wrong. It can only be reflective of the consistency of the rest of the Gospels; Jesus doesn’t change his character, much as people want to say he does. So I think, based on the Four Gospels, teachings and miracles of Jesus recorded, it’s safe to say he harmed no one.
But what about that whip? In John’s account, Jesus makes a whip out of chords and uses it to drive everyone out. Worth noting: John IS the only one who mentions it, but it’s worth looking at. Shane Claiborne’s response to this objection in Jesus for President is pretty simple: Animals respond to whips, therefore Jesus made a whip to get them moving, and drove them out. Again, no mention of its use on humans. To me, that makes sense.
You might be thinking, “OK, so he didn’t hurt anyone, but he did destroy an awful lot of stuff and property in what looked like “holy anger.” You are correct. This could very easily be equated with blatant vandalism, and if someone did this in a church today, no doubt they’d be labeled a criminal and a lunatic…well, what do you think the religious leaders thought?
18And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. – Mark 11:18
This is what happens when you speak out against an evil establishment, especially when your words draw the attention of the masses like Jesus’ did: the leaders who profit from what you speak out against will label you insane and do all they can to do away with you. Jesus, being a rabbi, was furious with the fact that the Temple authorities were exploiting the people by selling them animal sacrifices, not only ripping them off, but leading them astray. When Jesus spoke in the Temple following this event, no doubt he spoke out against this oppression, and the Temple authorities lost a primary source of income.
So in the end, yes, Jesus DOES get angry. How can you not get angry seeing the injustice that occurs in this world? The difference is that Jesus drove out those causing it, but did so in a way that got their attention without harming anyone, and then taught those who had become victims how to overthrow the yoke that had been placed on them (there’s a theme in Jesus’ teachings I’ll have to talk about with y’all sometime). Being angry isn’t wrong. Paul says in Galatians 5:2; “In your anger, do not sin.” Utilize your anger to produce good, to right wrongs, and you have used it properly. Mark Driscoll is right in that Jesus is a prize fighter who has an agenda to stand and fight, but how he fights makes him pretty easy to beat up. Sorry, Mark.
What are your thoughts? How have you used holy anger to right wrongs?