Tim Harlow, a pastor who, 30 years ago, went to a small struggling church in Chicagoland. Today, it’s one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the country. He didn’t do it with flashing lights and free coffee. He did it by understanding the heart of a good Father in heaven, who cares more about the one sheep that’s lost, even if the 99 aren’t always happy about it. As it turns out, this principle is so important to the Father, that it was the one thing that always made Jesus mad. It’s a grace to welcome Tim to the farm’s front porch today…
We’ve got a magnet our kitchen refrigerator that says, “If Momma ain’t happy . . . ain’t nobody happy.”
It’s funny, because we all know it’s true.
I want to make one for the church that says, “If Jesus ain’t happy . . .”
Have you, like me, read the words of Jesus so many times that you don’t even realize how many red, red letters there are?
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matt. 23:33).
If someone tweeted that today, it would seem a bit inflammatory, don’t you think? That was Jesus! Though He was loving and tender, His words were sometimes sharp and biting.
We often learn more about a person from the things they don’t like than what they do like.
If you know anything about Jesus’ life, when you first read the title of this book, your mind likely went to the scene where Jesus threw the money changers and animals out of the temple. Exactly. Jesus was angry, and He did something positive with His anger.
He made a whip. He drove out. He scattered. He overturned. And He said, “How dare you!” (John 2:15–16)
Other times Jesus threatened people with damnation. He used some seriously condemning imagery, he even warned that it would be better if they had a big rock tied around their necks and were thrown into the sea (Matt. 18:6). That sounds more like a mafia movie, doesn’t it?
What Made Jesus Angry?
In every scriptural instance where Jesus expresses anger—the rawest of all emotions—this is the match that lit His fuse:
Think about it this way: Jesus came to provide His people direct access to the Father as demonstrated by the veil in the temple being torn at the crucifixion (Matt. 27:51).
This was an enormously symbolic part of the crucifixion that most people miss.
The area behind the veil was the Holy of Holies, where God dwelt. Only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies, and only once a year.
God set it up this way because, although He wanted His people to know how much He wanted a direct relationship with them, there was too deep a divide between their sinfulness and His holiness. He was preparing them for a Savior.
At the crucifixion, the veil was torn “from top to bottom.” This was God’s way of showing us that Jesus’ mission was complete. IT IS FINISHED.
Therefore, if access to the Father was Jesus’ purpose on earth, then it logically follows that it angered Jesus the most when people created barriers to that access.
There are three obvious instances of Jesus’ anger in response to the barriers people put up:
- In the temple, where money changers were literally denying access to the Father, especially for the non-Jews and the poor.
- During His teaching, when little children were denied access.
- On the Sabbath, when religious leaders put rules above relationship and suffering above healing.
There are many more times when Jesus’ language seems to be directed in anger. I mean it’s hard to call someone a “child of hell” (Matt. 23:15) with a smile on your face. Go ahead. Try it.
Did you notice at whom His anger was most often directed?
It was at the religious people of His day. Well, the leaders of the religious people.
That would be me today, okay? He was mad at the people who supposedly spoke for God.
He was angry because they were blocking the little people from Him: children, non-Jews, women, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. Nope. Access denied.
It’s very easy for the church today to fall into the same bad behavior that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and religious teachers exhibited in Jesus’ day.
But we have less excuse for blocking access to the love of the Father, because we’re supposed to be learning from the example of Jesus!
In the movie Gladiator, the central character, Maximus, states, “Caesar once had a vision of what was supposed to be Rome, and this is not it.” Like Maximus, I believe Jesus had a vision of what the church was supposed to be, and many times, where we have ended up is not it.
If you’re confused or upset because the church dumped on you or you’ve been hurt by one of its leaders, Jesus wants you to know that is not the way He wants it to be.
If you are a Christian trying to walk faithfully but struggling to see how to do so, let’s look with fresh eyes at the attitudes that made Jesus angry and see if we can move things in the right direction.
If we could learn, or relearn, the heart of Jesus, we could play a more effective role in accomplishing His goal.
Tim Harlow is the senior pastor of Parkview Christian Church, one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America. He has spent thirty years working with people who have baggage from their past church experiences. He knows what drives people away and that the Jesus of the Bible is ultimately the hope that brings them back. Tim and his family make their home in the south suburbs of Chicago.
What if, by coming to understand God’s holy anger, we come to know a Savior we never knew before? With compelling storytelling and enlightening examinations of Scripture, in What Made Jesus Mad?, Tim Harlow journeys through the gospels and looks at what, and who, ignited Jesus’ anger. He asks, how can we respond like Jesus when good intentions, prejudices and judgments, traditions and rules, and selfish and joyless people conspire to keep others from God’s presence?
What Made Jesus Mad? retells Bible stories in a refreshing, eye-opening way, and offers readers an unforgettable reintroduction to the true character of Jesus and invites us to get to know the savior who was gracious but also blunt, and wildly passionate about bringing people to the heart of God.
[ Our humble thanks to Thomas Nelson for their partnership in today’s devotion ]