Today's lectionary reading: Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22
Selected passage for reflection: John 2:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version)
13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
I have been thinking a lot lately about Holy/Righteous Anger. Of all the stories about Jesus, this is the most zealous and passionate, the most angry we see him. And so it is worth reflecting on as we look to Jesus, God-in-human-form, and what made him angry and how he handled it.
Sometimes when I read this passage I find myself alienated by the Jesus I find here, bewildered by his anger. I am not used to an angry Jesus. I don’t know what to do with him. But lately, I feel like I identify more and more with angry-in-the-temple Jesus. Over and over, we see a pattern of who and what made Jesus frustrated and angry. Most often it was the religious authorities in his community- those who burdened the people with religion instead of freeing them with it, all the while lining their own pockets and basking in glory and attention.
In Matthew 12:34 Jesus actually even refers to the Pharisees as a “brood of vipers,” warning them to check their hearts and speech- is it helpful or hurting?
Over and over, the anger seems to be at a sort of double standard and a misuse of scripture and the artifacts of their religion (like the temple) in order to perpetuate injustice for personal gain.
In the same way, I see how this has also been happening, particularly in the white western Christian church. While some of what I have experienced as some of the most egregious examples have been in the last few years, the biggest discovery for me is that the roots of a lot of the injustices in history have been at the hands of Christians and blessed by the church.
As a pastor and life-long Christian, I too am a part of the religious establishment that has actively participated in these wrongs and abuses, whether or not I had direct involvement or not. And so I wonder if my discomfort with Angry Jesus had more to do with an unconscious recognition of this reality.
As I grow in my awareness and faith, I have grown to identify more with Angry Jesus. But in humility I also recognize my privileged position of power and authority, and I find myself unsure what to do next.
How does this “recovering Pharisee” move to a place of discipleship with Jesus and solidarity with those he repeatedly defends and cares for whom the church is actively harming?
This Lent I feel Jesus inviting me not to the temple, but to “a deserted place to pray” (Mark 1:35). I hear Jesus calling me to a posture of learning and prayerful reflection, so I might respond in line with the Holy Spirit in answer to this question.
How do you experience Angry Jesus in this passage? Who do you identify with? In this 2021 Lenten season, how is Jesus calling you in light of Jesus’ righteous anger toward the religious establishment of his day and ours?
I encourage you to find your “deserted place to pray,” even if it looks like a 60 second escape into the bathroom while your Zoom meeting is on hold and your toddler is screaming “Mama!” I promise you the Holy Spirit will honor the heart and intention of that 60 seconds and meet you there, too.
God of all creation, in this season and time, help us recenter ourselves within the heart of Jesus, even…no, especially… when it helps us enter into our own place of discomfort, a place where we can grow. Amen.
About the Author
Rev. Sarah loves living in the eclectic Ecodistrict of Audubon Park in Orlando, FL. A pastor & community leader, she enjoys biking everywhere and tending her full front yard garden! She has a passion for traveling and finds great joy in connecting with people, their arts, and cultures. Instagram @pastorfarmersarah