What makes you angry?

There was a surprising level of anger in our Bible study last night. We were studying Mark 2:13-3:6, and looking at four controversies between Jesus and religious leaders (particularly the Pharisees). We were discussing the religious background to the sect of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group that was very serious about keeping God’s law—so serious, in fact, that they had built up a whole bunch of other laws to protect themselves from going anywhere near breaking God’s law. For example, to protect themselves from breaking commandment #4 (don’t work on Saturday), they had a rule that one mustn’t even look into a mirror on the Sabbath because, in doing so, one might see a grey hair and be tempted to pluck it out, which might be construed as ‘work’. We in the group were able to sympathize with them a little; in much the same way that a modern Christian might make a blanket rule not to drink alcohol or visit a pub to protect himself from the possibility of causing offence or temptation to an alcoholic Christian brother, the Pharisees made rules to help them to honour God in all areas of life.

We were able to understand a bit more, then, why the Pharisees were upset with Jesus. We could see their point, for example, in Mark 2:16, where they saw Jesus pushing the boundaries in the company he kept. Recently in our own city of Wollongong, there has been a corruption scandal, involving (among other things) local government officials having meals with property developers—which is highly suspicious, to say the least! When the Pharisees saw Jesus eating with tax collectors and notorious sinners, they were probably quite suspicious as well. The next two objections from the Pharisees (2:18-28) seemed a bit more trivial, but still, you could see their point. Of course, we knew the Pharisees were misguided, but still, they were godly and faithful Israelites, weren’t they?

We really were having a good Bible study—it was friendly, we were learning about interesting aspects of ancient Judaism, we were gaining some understanding of the religious thought-world of people from a different point of view to ours (i.e. the Pharisees), and we were also enjoying eating these delicious little chocolate sticks.

But then, seemingly out of nowhere, close to the end of the Bible study there was this anger! It took us a little by surprise. The anger didn’t come from me or from any of the members of the Bible study; it came from the most surprising quarter: Jesus himself! Faced with the possibility of healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, Jesus said:

And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. (Mark 3:4-5)

What was going on? What had we missed? Why was Jesus so angry at the Pharisees? Sure, they were a little misguided and their rules seemed a little trivial, but they meant well, didn’t they? Weren’t they trying to honour God genuinely by their rules? At least they weren’t paedophiles or corrupt property developers. Sure, they needed a bit of correction and understanding, but why was Jesus so angry at them?

We had a bit of a think, and then my wife Leonie (who often puts things well) said, “Maybe it’s like the situation in Burma”. We looked at her. What did she mean? She went on: “Well, in Burma at the moment, there are these officials who are trying to keep control of their country, so they’ve been obstructing international aid coming in to help the millions of cyclone victims. They don’t care how many of their people die, as long as they keep control. In effect, they have been causing the deaths of their own people. Doesn’t that make you angry?”

We realized that Jesus had a very different take on the Pharisees compared to the impression we’d built up in the Bible study. The Pharisees may have been well-intentioned in their religious observances—they may have been trying to honour the true and living God of Israel genuinely—but that didn’t matter. When push came to shove, they were more interested in their religion than in giving life and healing to a man in real need. Jesus exposed what was truly in their hearts. In reality, according to Jesus, their religious observances and their teachings were harming and even killing their own people (3:4). Jesus is angered and grieved at religious leaders—religious leaders who seem genuine, religious leaders who seem to be serving God. Because in reality, these religious leaders are destroying, killing and keeping people from salvation.

What makes you angry?

7 thoughts on “What makes you angry?

  1. Lionel,

    Can I suggest a more important final question – Where are we Pharasaic in our well-intentioned observances, and where would Jesus get angry with us?

    Put another way – what impediments do we assemble to limit workings of the Holy Spirit in our own lives and the communities we live in?

    This question gets to the heart of our relationship with God, and what ‘Logs’ need to be extracted from our own eyes before we pick ‘splinters’ from the eyes of others.

  2. We also had a bit of anger surface in our Bible Study last night (must have been something in the stars – NOT!!). The topic is what I would call a ‘hot’ one for Western Christians – money. Some of us, myself included, got quite worked up. Perhaps some judging went on that shouldn’t have. as an aside, I am trying to work out how not to judge yet not just cave in to the values around us. Also, how do we admonish if/where necessary without an implied judgement?
    I was angry about hearing platitudes like ‘its really all just about attitude’. Now I’m angry with myself for what I think are judgemental thoughts I had about others.
    Perhaps there is a place for us to be angry about injustice. Especially hard when I feel that it is unjust that I should have so much – middle class Sydney standard of living.
    Anger without sinning is probably good as it highlights important attitudes of mind and heart.
    Any advice on ‘judging’ v.‘admonishing’ will be received gratefully and graciously!


  3. When I look at Jesus, particularly in Matthew and Marks Gospels, it is the keeping of people from receiving God’s Grace which angers Jesus the most.  “You whitewashed tombs” he calls the Pharisees.  I had reason to look at a Christian website prior to the last Federal Election, where a number of Christian principles were set out for challenging politicians to take the Christian perspective during the election campaign.  I saw no reference to grace in the list and I contacted the writers of the list to ask them to reconsider the list in the light of the need for God’s grace to be foremost in any Christian principles.  The response was disappointing.  The writers were intent on imposing only some Christian standards on the campaigning candidates, without challenging greed, corruption, the poor treatment of refugees and the disadvantaged, but concentrating on a lot on personal moral issues of sexuality and so on.  The response to my second round of concerns were “do you want sin to abound?”  Of course not, but the point was missed, just as the Pharisees missed it with Jesus in Mark 2 – the answer to our moral failure is God’s Grace in the Lord Jesus. Yes it made me angry as well as a little sad, Lindsay Dunstan, Wollongong.

  4. I think that Stephen’s point is spot on. There are plenty of areas where the observance and teaching of particular groups has bordered on Pharisaical. You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve talked to who have talked about their experiences with religious communities, who have subsequently lost their faith because of what they had experienced. I shaln’t name names, but the more observant will know who I’m talking about. It is the actions of such parties that motivates me to “maintain the rage”.

  5. Lionel first a point of correction! I am sure Leonie ALWAYS “puts things well”.    Your comments made me think!! At my age that is something!!

      A point of view that makes me angry is one which says that it is not the responsibility,privilege and joy of the local church to provide,as a part of its budget financial assistance to: 

    1.  Mission enterprises,especially overseas in countries which ,compared to us,have so little in either human or material resources with which to build the church.

    2. The “persecuted church” overseas, which continues to suffer unimaginable distress,deprivation,discrimination and devastation.  and
    3. to provide the Word of God to Christians and seekers overseas who either cannot obtain a Bible as they are not available or because they cannot afford to purchase a copy.

      I am told that this issue is a matter solely for the individual not for a church.
      Am I justified in being angry?

  6. I like the Burma comparison. The curse of sin and all of its consequences ought to make us angry, as it did Jesus. Whether it is injustice, legalism, hypocrisy, or harming/hindering children, we ought to align ourselves with the sorrows and anger of Christ. However, our anger is tainted by sin. Not so with Christ. Still, we must get angry with sin in us, in the church, and in the world. Our Father does. The question for me is this: When I sin, does it make me angry?

  7. To Steve Dumas,

    An interesting question you pose about being angry with our own sin.

    My response is that being angry about my broken human condition is not a helpful place to be – particularly as a motivator to developing a lived spirituality.

    An approach I have found useful to reflect on my own brokeness can be summed up as ‘reflective sensitivity’ and ‘honest thoughfulness and action’.  On a personal level, desire for renewal and awakening from ‘sin’ has more to do with growth than punitive judgements.

    This more reflective approach to our vulnerable and broken condition I believe to be foundational to inner healing and grace-filled renewal.  Anger can be a barren and destructive place, and can ultimately become adversely addictive.


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