Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Anger of Jesus

"Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.'
Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus" (Mark 3:1-6, NIV).

Most of the time, when I think of the character of Jesus, I think of his compassion or his courage or his faithfulness. I seldom think of his anger, but his anger gives us some insight into his character, which we are called to imitate.

On this occasion, Jesus became angry when the Pharisees were more concerned about their rule-keeping than about a hurting man. He became furious at the virtuous men who had become blind to the needs of the people around them.

I have some understanding of the Pharisees, though. Sometimes I become so task-oriented that I lose sight of the people around me. How often have I become so engrossed in preparing a Bible lesson for Sunday morning that I have become blind to my wife's need to help with the dishes or my son's need for attention? How many times have I not even noticed that a co-worker's life is falling apart a few feet from me because I am obsessed with meeting a deadline? I have no idea, but I have some idea of how it can be easy to miss the needs of people while focusing on a task. The Pharisees were focused on the task of keeping the Sabbath, but they could not see a man in need among them.

Sometimes like the Pharisees, we make up rules in churches. For example, we may have a rule against cell phone usage during worship assemblies. It's a good rule most of the time. It keeps us from distractions. However, when it gets in the way of human needs, I know that it makes Jesus angry as much as the Sabbath rules of the Pharisees made him angry.

I remember one time when a church broke the rules because of our needs, and I am grateful for their willingness to do so. The weekend before our son was born, Janet and I knew that the time was near. We knew that Christopher's birth mother was due to give birth at any time, and that her lawyers could call at any moment for us to go to the hospital. We explained our situation to Tracy Ellis, the minister of the Jenks Church. "No problem," he said. He knew our needs and he refused to let the rules get in the way of meeting them. I kept my eyes on our cell phone the entire morning. I believe that Jesus smiled on the Jenks Church that Sunday morning as a rule was broken, but a need was met. (It turned out that we did not get the call during church services. We were able to be at the hospital 2 days later when our son was born. Another day later, we took him home. The adoption was completed a few months later.)

In order to be more like Jesus, I need to learn from his anger. I need to be more people-oriented and less task-oriented. I need to see the importance of people and be willing to get past rules that interfere with doing what God wants to be done. And I must become angry at what makes Jesus angry. "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son..." (Romans 8:29, NIV).


Anonymous said...

Wow, I really liked that one, Terry. This is the first time I've had time to read your stuff.

Terry said...

Thanks, Tina. This is my sister, right? Not some other Tina?