The Anger Of Christ

December 6, 1998 / No. 2918

At this time of year we turn our thoughts to the wonder of the incarnation, John 1:14, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” The eternal Son of God-now made in our flesh in the womb of the virgin Mary. The eternal Son of God-not relinquishing anything that was His as God, but now taking to Himself all that was human, and yet in such a way that He was without sin. And He did so in order that in the very same human nature in which sin was committed, a perfect payment might be given.

Still more, He did so in order that, being a faithful High Priest, He might succor them that are tempted, in order that He might be for us a perfect Savior.

We are looking at the emotional nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, for He was made like unto us. He was found in fashion as a man (Phil. 2). That is to be understood not only in physical appearance, in blood and bone, skin and hair, and all the rest. But He was made like unto us in soul and thoughts of the heart-all that was human.

So we read in the Scriptures that Jesus Christ sighed, He wept, He rejoiced, He was filled with tender compassion.

Also in His emotions Jesus was without sin. Our emotions so often are sinful and of self. So often they stand in the service of sin. Anger so often is based upon a selfish and petulant response to something that irritates us. And so often our emotions are based upon false perceptions of reality. But not so in Christ. His emotions were always righteous, never based upon selfish response, never based on an inaccurate perception of reality. The fact that He was sinless does not mean that He was less human. It was not as if He was simply programmed into the human nature. No. The fact that He was sinless means that He knew more than anyone else could what it was to be a man.

Today we would like to turn to another emotion of our Lord Jesus Christ, an emotion that is often ignored in Him – the emotion of anger. Seldom is anger present in us without sin being present to a very large degree. I do not know if we ever will approach unto the holy anger of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Of all our emotions there is none that is so corrupted and tainted with our sin as anger. James says to us in chapter 1:20, “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” Nor is there an emotion which so quickly gets out of control and which rises up within us so quickly. And we do so much to justify our sinful anger. We are like Jonah under the juniper tree when the Lord says, “Doest thou well to be angry, Jonah?” “Yea,” said Jonah, “I do well.” Our anger is so often rooted in ourselves, when our will is thwarted, when our pride is hurt, and when our purposes are obstructed. So the Scriptures say to us in Psalm 37:8, “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath.”

Yet our Lord was angry. He displayed at times a holy, righteous anger, rooted in His zeal for the holiness of God – not a vengeful, not a vindictive anger, wanting to get even, but an anger which was the result of His perfect holiness, an anger which showed upon His very countenance, His outward expressions. As such, He stood as the perfect servant of Jehovah.

We should not ask the question, How could He be a Savior if He is angry? But we ought to ask this question: How could He be a Savior if He was not angry at certain moments in His public ministry.

The moment to which I want to refer you, found in Mark 3, is a moment in which His deepest hatred of sin is displayed. As the holy Son of God who, with His spotless innocence, covers all of our sins, He was angry. He possessed a holy anger against sin.

The passage that I refer to is Mark 3:1-6. It was an incident in which the Lord healed a man on the Sabbath day, and in which the Pharisees stood about Him watching whether or not He was going to heal on the Sabbath.

There was a man with a withered hand. According to Mark 3:3, Jesus said to the man, “Stand forth.” And He, that is Jesus, “saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.”

He looked with anger.

It was very early in our Lord’s ministry when this event took place. But already the lines had been drawn. The Pharisees and the scribes were attempting to discredit Him and hold Him up as a fraud. Jesus had entered into the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath day. And a man with a withered hand was before Him. He was paralyzed, perhaps through a stroke or an injury. But the point was that the hand was useless, hanging by his side and withered up.

The Scriptures speak of a hand as possessing skill and ability to perform what we want to do. A withered hand represents those who can do nothing to help themselves. And it represents spiritually the fact that we can do nothing to help ourselves in the spiritual sense. God had warned Israel inDeuteronomy 8 that when they came into the land of promise they were not to say that “by my power and by the might of my hand have I gained these things.” No, they must confess that it was the hand of the Lord God almighty which gave them all things. The Scriptures proclaim to us that we have not the strength to contribute one item to our salvation. For, when we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly. Before God we stand with withered hands hanging useless by our sides, and we are unable to save ourselves.

Salvation is the work of the mighty hand of God – not of man’s hand. And the cure that Jesus gives to this man is a wonderful representation of our salvation. On the basis of His finished work upon Calvary we stand whole, able and willing to walk in all good works. So we confess, nothing in our hands we bring; only to the cross we cling. We rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. And by the power of His grace our hands are now empowered to do the will of God.

But this man’s presence became an occasion for the Pharisees to find fault with Jesus. We read that they watched Him whether He would heal on the Sabbath day that they might accuse Him. They had their elaborate, man-made traditions on what was acceptable for the Lord’s day. They followed the coldness of the letter. Healing was not acceptable. And the Lord brings out their folly. He asks them whether it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day. Then the Lord goes on the offensive. He will not be bullied by their prejudices. Standing before them, we read, He looked around on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. And He said unto the man, “Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.”

The grief at the hardness of their hearts was something the Lord felt inwardly. But the anger was expressed outwardly, revealed in His face. He looked round about on them, beholding their proud formalism, their love of their own traditions, their pompous pride, untouched by the misery of this man. The anger flashed in His eyes. He looked round about on them with anger, an anger which none of the Pharisees could meet. Those eyes of Christ which could look out with tender compassion, those eyes which could spill out tears of grief, those eyes which revealed the grace of forgiveness to repentant sinners; now those eyes flash with the pure and holy fire of righteous anger.

We find this repeated in the Lord’s ministry. In Mark 10:14, when the disciples were rebuking parents who were bringing children to Jesus to have Him bless them, we read that the Lord was “much displeased,” literally moved with indignation and angry, and He said to the disciples, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” Again in John 11:33, 38, where Jesus comes to the graveside of Lazarus. A very strange thing is said of the Lord: He groaned in spirit and was moved with indignation, He was agitated. Anger mixed with compassion. He saw what death does. He saw the ravages of sin upon His people. And he responded in grief and anger. Then in John 2:13ff., there is the cleansing of the temple. The disciples remembered at that time what was written: “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.” Jesus drove out the money-changers. He was filled with zeal for God’s honor. What ought to be a place of prayer, the temple, they had made into a stinking marketplace. And the Lord turns over the tables and drives out the animals. The Lord was filled with a holy anger.

This was righteous. Why? We read, “being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” As the holy Son of God, He burned with God’s holy anger against the heinous offense of the hardness of heart, of the unbelief, of the smugness of human pride. The Pharisees and scribes stood before the Messiah who had come to do the work of the Lord. And they, in the pride of their hearts, imagined that they were, after all, not so bad off that they needed a gracious salvation; they could take care of themselves. So, confronted with this arrogancy, with this proud, self-righteous spirit, the spirit which was so blinded to the gross evil of their hearts, the spirit which was concerned only with outward conduct, hiding to a man the inward state, the depravity of their heart-before that, the Lord responded in anger. It is an evil thing to be smug about yourself, to imagine that you are not desperately evil and in need of the grace of God, to be content in yourself, to be filled with pride. Pride is something that is vile and evil. We read in Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride and arrogancy, and the evil way, … do I hate.”

What the Pharisees were doing as they stood by in the hardness of their hearts, tempting the Lord to heal on the Sabbath day, was an ungodly thing. The Pharisees stood inflexible in their unbelief. They were resolved to persist in their folly of rejecting God’s Son. Christ’s feeling of anger was a pure and holy passion, rooted in the deepest hatred of sin and in zeal for His Father’s glory. Christ’s anger was His holiness, clad in robes of justice.

It is crucial that believers in the Lord Jesus Christ know this. Not that we crouch in fear. For the holy wrath against our sins, which we deserve, and the holy wrath for the hardness of our unbelief, He removed forever.

But it is important that we see how evil and how displeasing it is to the Lord to walk in pride. Be warned. Jesus Christ is holy. And there is such a thing as the wrath of the Lamb. In the last day the wrath of the Lamb shall be revealed, in which men will say, Hide us from the wrath of the Lamb. Now that wrath that we deserve as believers for our sins is forever gone from us. Calvary was the enduring of the holy anger that we deserved. But that does not mean that we become blasé about our sins, about the evil of pride that yet remains within our hearts. We must always walk humbly and meekly before our gracious Savior.

We are called also to repent of our own sinful anger. And we are called to pray that we too display a holy and a righteous anger.

I said, as we began our message, that perhaps there is no emotion which is so filled with our sins as our anger. We must fight a sinful anger, moments of bitterness registered either against God or man in which we become angry. The Scriptures say to us, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger be put away from you (Eph. 4:31). Sometimes we like to sit down in a pool of bitterness. We can begin to wallow in the pool of bitterness. And we become angry. So often our anger is centered in ourselves. The Scriptures say, Let this anger be put away from you, do not let it stay in your hearts.

We must cultivate Christ-like emotions. We must cultivate them in order that we might be like Him. We must be filled then with long-suffering. We must be filled with all meekness and all gentleness. But we must also have a holy anger against that which displeases God. We must learn what it is to be angry at our sins. We must not excuse them, but we must see sin for the offense that it is. Does your sin upset you? God knows the hearts of all of His children. And God calls us to resist sin in our hearts. Does gross evil upset you in your own life and as you see it around you? Does God-dishonoring doctrine and heresy stir your soul to displeasure? Does profaning of the worship of God stir your soul with displeasure? Not in a fanatic anger. But do you bring the appropriate and reasoned actions from God’s Word as you see sin acted out around you? Let us seek grace that the emotions of a godly anger may yet fill our breasts, an anger which springs from zeal for God and His truth and His glory and His worship.

And when you feel anger arising in your heart which is sinful and fleshly and corrupt, lose not a moment to bring it to the cross that it may be slain in you.

Let us remember that our Savior is the holy Jesus, the Savior who has died for our sins and yet is filled with holy displeasure and anger against all pride and arrogancy.

Let us bring our sins to Him to confess, and let us ask that our hearts too might be filled with a holiness and a zeal for God, that we, too, might show displeasure against sin – sin in us and around us, being like unto Him.

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that Thou wilt bless it unto our souls in this day, that we might be holy even as our Savior. In His name do we pray, Amen.