Thursday, 25 February 2010

Lent Course 2010 [Blog] - Part II

Jesus Christ and Anger

As a human being, I am very familiar with anger as an emotion; anger that I feel and anger that I have recieved. As a Christian, I no less experience anger but I labour under the tension of that anger in the context of 'love thy neighbour'. It is all tickety-boo being a loving being, but with it comes a sense of failure when anger comes to the fore (for me, at least).

Questions I must reflect upon, therefore, are:

  • What is anger?

  • How does it affect me?

  • How does my anger affect others?

  • Is anger an appropriate response for a Christian, (let alone for a priest)?

  • What good does anger do, if it does any good at all?
I ask these questions to set the scene of the next stage of the enquiry; whether Jesus experienced anger, how and when, and what was the result (intended or otherwise).
I believe in the Incarnation in its fullest sense; that it is God made (hu)man. This acceptance brings with it certain conditions - things that I have to believe if I am to fully accept the Incarnation. Primary among those things is that I must believe that Jesus was capable of all emotions.
In the case of anger, I have to believe that Jesus was capable of anger and all that can come from it - but capability and actuality are two seperate things. I am capable of murder, but I have never murdered! So the question stands: did Jesus experience anger; if he did then how; and if he did what was the result?
Scripture, as I have already said, did not deal with emotion particularly. We can only discern Jesus' emotions through their effects on those around him. This can bring with it some difficulty - what I interpret as anger you may interpret as exasperation, for example. Similar as they are in part, they are not the same. To that end, I have to approach Scripture with my own heart as my guide - that is to say, if I were involved in the exchange, would I feel that Jesus were being angry at me? We can therefore only speak for ourselves, so the examples I will give in a moment are to be regarded as limited by my subjectivity.

Matthew 21: 12 : The expulsion of the dealers from the Temple - this verse paints Jesus as calm and rational, but I wonder what level of anger would have committed him to the action of turning over tables. He is destructive; he is insulting; he is chiding - and I believe that his choice of insult is deliberately intended to vent anger and be hurtful.
Matthew 8: 25 : The calming of the storm - again, this account paints Jesus as calm and rational, but I sense that if I were one of the disciples, I would recieve this encounter as Jesus' anger. To question the faith of one so devoted to 'the cause' to have dropped everything for it, requires, I think a fair degree of anger!
Matthew 16: 23 : The first prophecy of the Passion - 'Get behind me Satan' is an utterance born of anger, I believe. Jesus was dealing in some very deep and poignant stuff at this stage in the story, and for that to be misconstrued must have been at the very least frustrating!

You may not agree with me at all on these examples, have other examples, or indeed question the hypothesis. However, it strikes me that the anger that emerges is a corrective force - not a destructive one. My personal anger is often destructive (of me or the external 'other'), so I take from these examples the way in which Jesus uses what I percieve as anger as a corrective tool - a short sharp shock brand of correction.

So (becuase I am in danger of rambling I ought to conclude), I reflect as follows:

  • Was Jesus in fact displaying anger in these (and other passages)?

  • How is Jesus' anger different from mine?

  • Positives / negatives of those differences
  • How can I convert the weaknesses in my anger to mirror the positives in Jesus'.


  1. I have heard the Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman talk about the need for righteous anger - anger against apartheid, much as Jesus might have been angry in the Temple. However they are perhaps different from the kind of anger you are talking about.
    However, as we are human we will have anger, so for me it becomes a question of whether we express it or suppress it - and being real wins everytime for me.

  2. "Be angry, but do not sin..." (Ephesians 4:26)comes to mind. I think anger is a God-given emotion. It's OK to feel anger - I'm sure Jesus did. But anger (whether expressed or suppressed)can be used in ways that are life-enhancing or life-denying, to create or destroy. The difference between Jesus' anger and mine is that his anger was not used sinfully.



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