“Jesus’ Righteous Anger”

Jesus and His disciples entered the temple grounds that day along with many others at a time in the Jewish year when Jews came to Jerusalem to make sin offerings at the temple. The animals that could be purchased ranged from expensive cattle to cheap pigeons, reflecting the varying social status of those who had come to make sacrifice. The money changers were there to exchange Roman coins (which displayed the head of the emperor) for temple coins. To use a Roman coin in the temple that portrayed the image of the emperor was considered idolatry. So the money had to be exchanged. Both areas of transaction – the purchasing of animals and the exchange of coins, were abused for profit.


So, again, it would be easy to portray Jesus as being outraged at this unjust practice of hiking up prices, and no doubt that was of concern to Him. But Jesus Christ was no two-bit social reformer demanding that the scales used to weigh the coins be re- calibrated or that the temple authorities set fair prices on the animals to avoid price gauging. Jesus displayed righteous anger to be sure, but He did not come that day to ‘speak truth to power’ or insist that there would be no peace if there were no justice.
The Lord came that day to a temple where it was taught that God’s mercy comes with a price. The Lord came to a temple where one’s knowledge of sin against God demanded payment. And we can fully understand this equation. For we, too, often operate on the same basis. We demand payment, compensation, retribution – there are many words – for the deficiencies in others that result in their sinning against us. Sin must be compensated for. We want our pound of flesh, too.This is the picture of God that the people received in the temple. God expects us to make amends for our sin.

And it was this, ‘this for that’ image of God, portrayed by the entire temple system, that angered Jesus to such a degree. Jesus righteous anger was leveled at those who were distorting God’s actual disposition toward sin and sinners. For Jesus Christ came into the world to reveal the true heart of God and to declare that God’s mercy is never earned and requires no payment.


So now we have come to the very heart of the Gospel: No sacrifice of ours can or will ever compensate for our sin. For every one of our thoughts, words and actions are tainted with this deadly disease. Compared to the devastating effects of sin, COVID is a minor malady. We have nothing in our power to compensate for sin, the theft of our existence from God. Sin must be forgiven and only God can forgive sin totally and completely.
In the heat of the moment, the temple priests confront Jesus and demand a sign to reveal by what authority he has caused such a scene.
“Destroy this temple,”, he replied, “and in three days I will raise it up.”
They thought, of course, that the Lord was referring to the physical temple, the building. But He was referring to His body. The sign of His authority to sweep away the law and forgive sin would be nothing less than the Father bringing Him from death (the law’s last move) to life and the beginning of a new creation; a creation grounded not in the law but in God’s mercy.
The temple building would be destroyed some 40 years later and with it the mercy seat, the lid of the ark of the covenant, would be destroyed. But now, Jesus Christ has become both the sin offering and the mercy seat of God, where His atoning forgiveness is located for all sinners who recognize they have sinned against the God of heaven.
And this is what the disciples remembered, as our gospel lesson tells us, after the Lord’s resurrection. This is what, years later, Paul came to understand as the foolishness of the cross. They came to understand that in Christ Jesus God had not come to be one law set against another. Rather, in Jesus, God is revealed as the one who turns the legal scheme up side down, who takes your sin upon Himself, as the God who does not demand payment, for Christ has paid your debt of sin, the God who wants sinners to know Him as the Good Shepherd who loves and forgives His wandering sheep.

So, this morning, we, too, are about to remember the Risen Lord. When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we are called to the remembrance of the Lord who gives Himself out of love and mercy to sinners who know their need and recognize in Jesus Christ the God of mercy who meets that need. And our dear Lord is so determined that we know Him in this way, that he gives His very self, His very life and Spirit to us in this simple meal, in this means of grace, His last will and testament to us. In this remembrance Christ Jesus actually comes among us and gives Himself to us.
This morning Jesus Christ comes among us not to speak truth to power, but to proclaim the word of mercy and forgiveness to sinners. This is His awesome glory – and our hope.

“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord”

Pastor Mark Anderson

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