A few years ago, we were watching the movie The Gospel of John (2003), which is a topnotch, verse by verse drama through John’s gospel. After we watched John chapter 2, when Jesus clears the temple, one of my sons, eyes wide and jaw open, said, “That’s an angry Jesus!” Though we’ve heard the story of Jesus chasing out the merchants in the temple, seeing it dramatized is another thing. My son was right: that is an angry Jesus!
Jesus went wild: he burst into the temple, made a whip, and drove out all those who were selling animals; on the way, he flipped over all the tables of the money-changers and threw out their coins. So outrageous was his behavior, that his disciples later linked it with a verse from Psalm 69, which tells us that zeal consumed him like a blazing fire.
Why was Jesus so passionate? —Because these things were getting in the way. “Do not make my Father’s house a house of trade” (John 2:16). The temple was supposed to be like a house. A house is a place where children can be with their father. It’s a place where you expect to hear laughter and experience joy; the place where one could hear the sound of children talking to their father.
Instead, this temple was full of animal noises and profit. You heard the sound of coins dropping rather than prayers rising. You heard cows bellowing rather than people singing. It turned what was supposed to be a relationship into a religion, where forgiveness was bought and sold, depending on how much you could afford.
These things were getting in the way. That made Jesus angry. The temple was supposed to be the place where heaven and earth interlocked, where God and humans danced in covenant celebration. When Jesus saw that this wasn’t happening, he turned the tables and lashed out in violence against all who were getting in the way.
Did you know that God is angry about whatever gets in the way of you and him? God is so passionate for you, that he will do whatever it takes to have you for himself, as a Father would in his own home. And it’s not just that he gets angry, but it consumes him. Picture some tinder going up in flame and you’ve got the idea.
Some of us think that we have to do something to win God’s favor, like buy the right sacrifices for the altar. This makes Jesus mad, for he knows that he will provide the sacrifice (himself) and that there is nothing we need to do to be accepted by God. Anything other than grace angers Jesus.
Love is so dangerous because it could burst through and turn your tables at any time. At any time, you might feel the chords of Jesus, whipping away the things that are getting in the way. And he doesn’t apologize, either; we are stuck with this passionate, angry, loving, tender, and brutal Jesus, who will do whatever it takes to bring you back to God.
How’s this for a parting prayer, “Angry Jesus, throw out all my junk. I thought I needed it, but you know best: I only need you.”