Introduction: Understanding Anger.
One of the most misunderstood emotions today is ANGER. In many ways it is frowned upon by many. Pastor Kent Hughes says, “[There is a contemporary fallacy that], ‘thoughtful and intelligent people are supposed to discuss the most outrageous matters without emotion” (p. 72). See the thing is friends, anger is an emotion like happiness, sorrow, or any other. Emotions are not evil, but in many ways a litmus test of where our hearts are. They tell us we are alive and are meant to guide us toward what is functioning is our God. So, anger is an emotion that clues us into what is our God. In his book Good & Angry, David Powlison says, “[anger is an] active displeasure toward something that’s important enough to care about” (p. 39). Another way he puts it is, “That matters…and it’s not right.” When we approve of something we do not get angry. Anger arises when we disapprove of something. Powlison goes on to say the process works like this: (1) we identify some perceived wrong, (2) we take a stance of disapproval and feel displeasure, and (3) in some way we are moved to action—to say or do something about it. Jesus demonstrates this for us today in our text. Therefore, let’s stand and read this text together—READ John 2.12-22. I believe this passage can be summarized as, “anger clues us into where the allegiance of our hearts lies.”
1. The Devoted Anger of Jesus—John 2.12-17.
Immediately after the events that took place at the wedding in Cana we see Jesus, His mother, His family, and His disciples take a road trip together. It would seem like it was a retreat. Why did Jesus see the need for this? Well, I think it probably has a lot to do with the events of what happened in John 2.13-17.
Much like the previous story, John gives us the context of this story. It is taking place during the time of the “Passover.” This was an extremely important holiday for the Jewish nation. The Passover was a celebration of God’s miraculous deliverance of the Hebrews from the oppression they expression during their time in Egypt. We all know that during the Christmas season in our country it is pretty hard to not know that is going on because our entire nation display all the signs. I mean even Starbucks changes their cups into Christmas colors. For those in the time of Jesus everywhere you would have gone in Israel would have communicated to you it was the time of the Passover.
People from all over the nation and the Roman Empire would journey to Jerusalem. The first place they would go once they arrive in Jerusalem would be the Temple to offer sacrifices. Jesus and his disciples were no different. When Jesus arrived their He saw something that disgusted Him. He saw countless merchants exploiting God’s instructions for their own personal gains. They were using people hearts to be right with God as a means to gain more wealth and influence. One scholar I read this week said we have historical records telling us these merchants would charge someone a whole days work just to exchange their money. We also know the “high priest” was behind the whole thing.
With all that in mind Jesus walks into these circumstances. I want you to imagine Jesus looking around, His eyes wide, His heart beating, His palms sweating, and overall experiencing white-hot anger welling up in Himself. While Jesus is upset with the exploitive efforts of these merchants under the direction of the religious leaders of His time, He is even more upset about what this says about God. The religious leaders and merchants are taking the commands of God and exploiting people for their hard earned money. Can you imagine what this was doing for the faith of money? Here are the religious leaders stealing money from people, and they could be tempted to think, “Wow, this is who God puts in charge.” It was Jesus love for God that fueled His anger. He saw God’s name being defamed by these actions. Jesus could not sit idly by and watch this. Jesus set out to defend the honor and glory of God.
What we see in Jesus is an example of what righteous zealous passion looks like. His action reminds the disciples of Psalm 69.9, “For zeal for your house has consumed me.” Jesus’ emotions were so consumed with God’s glory He could not see people making a mockery of worship. Are Jesus’ emotions the litmus test for your faith? Do we have this same type of concern God’s house? You see friends so much of our culture is built around individualistic narcissism that we cannot get our hearts and minds off ourselves long enough to experience true heartfelt emotions for God. Even we meet people who have true genuine heartfelt passion for God we question them, because their passion make us feel uncomfortable. It is not about God, but ourselves. If we are willing to admit it the zeal we once had for God is in many ways lost. We shifted our gaze something we deemed more important, and subtly slipped into religious, rigid, ritualism. We have forgotten what the Psalmist tells us in Psalm 51:
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.—Psalm 51.16-17
2. The Promised Sign of Jesus—John 2.18-22.
Must not forget Jesus’ anger was not out of control—He did not fly off the deep end. Remember the context. Jesus knows this is the Passover. He understands the significance of His actions. Jesus even knew that the religious leaders could not tell Him was doing anything wrong, because they were actually in the wrong. When they approach Him about they do not condemn Him, but ask Him by what authority He does this—READ John 2.18. They are asking Jesus to “justify” Himself—they are asking Him to justify His actions. But when someone is secure in God they do not need to justify themself, because they know God is their defender.
Jesus actually does tell them they will see a sign. Jesus has faith in His Father that He will prove His authority. Jesus tells them what to look for. The irony is the religious leaders will play a part in helping to set the stage for the sign. Jesus tells them the sign will be the destruction and reconstruction of the Temple in 3 days. Of course they are so blind they think Jesus is talking about a Temple of bricks and mortar, but Jesus was talking about His own body. In order to make sure we understand that John puts some editorial remarks in John 2.21-22 [READ].
The bodily resurrection of Jesus will be the sign these religious leaders are demanding to prove Jesus’ authority. Jesus will go to the Cross in faith that God the Father will raise His body from the dead.
Jesus knew the Temple was meant to be a place people can meet God, and so He has come to show them something better. God is right here in the flesh. The Temple was also a place where sacrifices of sin were offered, but Jesus is the one time sacrifice that fully satisfied God. He is the beginning of the end. John told us in John 2.11 that Jesus was just beginning to reveal His glory, so we see more of His glory is being revealed.
In many ways the disciples did not always fully understand what was going on in the moment as the end of John 2.22 tells us. But the difference between them and the religious leaders of their time has a great deal to do with “justification.” Notice how the religious leaders wanted Jesus to prove Himself to them. For people far from God this is their common heart pattern. They are constantly going around trying to “prove” themselves. They constantly compare their self-proclaimed righteous lifestyle against others. They regular condemn, but deep down they are in utter despair. It is not hard to see their massive insecurities. And if we are truly honest with ourselves this is all of us outside of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The only way to break free from this self-righteous, self-justification lifestyle is daily express our righteousness and justification is not our own, but has graciously been given to us through God in Jesus Christ. Only this type of faith can transform us and set us free. When we prone to wonder may we draw our hearts back with the truths of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The same Jesus who went the Cross to die for our sins was also raised from the dead. And that Jesus promises He can transform our lives to look like His. And it is the same passion that caused Him to turn those tables that is turn over the tables of our hearts. Jesus gets angry about anything getting the way of His love toward us and our love toward Him. I hope and pray we all would have the same white-hot angry toward meaningless dispassionate worship in our hearts. When we have that type of angry toward it would be more of a clue that God is refining our hearts to be like His.