John 2:13-22 contains Jesus' first "cleansing" of the Temple where he denounces their evil practices concerning worship of God. This is such a great example of anger used in a godly way.
This is one of the most violent reactions Jesus has. He drives out the animals. He turned over the tables of the money-changers. If you were present to witness this event where Jesus has a whip, is driving people out of the temple, chasing out sheep and oxen, overturning tables, and pouring out money, and yelling, would you think he sinned? Our definition of sin is sometimes slightly off. If we think Jesus sinned here, then we need to adjust our definition.
Sometimes anger is wrong and sinful. Sometimes anger is right and proper. Christians today need to learn that it is right to be indignant. It is right to be angry when God’s name is denied, when that which is unholy and that which is impure is taught and practiced by others. And it should be a righteous indignation in the heart and lives of God’s people.
Notice that Jesus was not overcome with anger. He was in control the entire time. Verse 15 reveals his patience. He made a whip of cords. It would have taken him time to gather the materials and to carefully braid the cords into a whip. Jesus is in control. He is not blacking out, not lashing out, not doing anything he will regret, he is thinking his actions through.
Whips in that time were braided to make a handle. Jesus, being a man used to working with his hands, could make this whip quickly but still would have taken perhaps five to ten minutes. At this time, I imagine Jesus fuming and watching the Temple's business, the source of his anger. In my imagination, Jesus is considering what he is going to do and thinking how it needs to be done. The fact that he braided the whip shows his patience and self-control.
Anger is a dangerous emotion because it risks overtaking us and shutting off our conscious reasoning. But that does not mean anger itself is sin. God gets angry and so does Jesus. Anger is good when done in the proper way, in proper measure, for the proper reason.
[Eph 4:26-27 ESV] 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
Are there times when you should make a scene out of anger? Yes. They are few and far between, but yes. Most often people are controlled by their anger, angry at the wrong thing, or too afraid to do anything. But there are times for a public demonstration of anger. Worship being abused is one of them. This is the appropriate response when we see worship become for-profit business.
I know for myself, when I find something that stirs up anger it is important not to react then and there. I take time to step back from the scene, think things through, and often ask my wife or friends if I am overreacting. And often, if it is a silly reason to be mad, doing something else will calm you down. As a kid I was taught to hold your breath and count to ten. Jesus certainly did a version of that when he made the whip, but after calming himself he found his anger to be justified and he needed to act.
Anger isn't sin, but it is an "opportunity to the devil." So we must be cautious and self-controlled in our anger.
In John 2:1-12 is the first miracle done by Jesus that John records. It is the miracle of water to wine, which seems less than significant compared to all the other miracles. Personally, I made this connection in my study and came to appreciate the miracle so much more now.
John keeps track of the miracles that he records in his Gospel (2:11; 4:54), so the inclusion of this detailed miracle is purposeful. Why would John include such a seemingly insignificant miracle in his Gospel? Out of eight miracles John records, why is the transformation of water to wine one of them?
The Jewish John may have given an underlying allusion in this miracle. What would a Jew think of when he reads of water to wine? Is this miracle not reminiscent of water to blood done by Moses? When Pharaoh refused to allow the Hebrew people to be removed, God through Moses sent the plagues. The first was turning the water of the Nile into blood so that the water was undrinkable (Exo. 7:17-18).
Is it not significant that John began his gospel's miracles with water to wine when (God through) Moses began his miraculous plagues with water to blood. Wine and blood looking so similar, the visual certainly is an allusion to the plagues by Moses! Jesus began like Moses began! Moses ushered in a new era with a new covenant and Jesus is like him ushering a new and better era and a new and better covenant.
Notice the key differences between Moses' and Jesus' first work. Blood was a symbol of death and it made life difficult without water. Wine was a symbol of prosperity and gladness and made it more enjoyable to drink (as opposed to water). Though the same color they are opposites. Blood in the Nile is ominous and was an omen of worst things to come, but water to wine is a blessing and a promise of better things to come. Instead of God's wrath through Moses we see God's blessing through Jesus. Instead of sorrow we see joy.
Do you recall the final plague of the Ten Plagues? The first plague was water to blood. The first miracle of John is water to wine. What was the final miracle in John's gospel? The final plague upon Egypt was the death of the firstborn. Do we not see the death of the firstborn in Jesus' life? Jesus, the firstborn, died! Egypt mourned their children's deaths, but the death of Christ is a cause of celebration. The firstborn died and paradoxically we all should celebrate because the death was for the sins of the world.
It doesn't stop there. The eighth and final miracle of John's Gospel is the resurrection. Instead of ending on death like the Plagues, we end on the new life of our Savior which not only does he have but he also offers to all the world. The Ten Plagues ended with the dreadful death of the firstborn, but the Eight Blessings of John end with the resurrection of the firstborn.
The water to blood miracle signaled the beginning of the deliverance of God's people. The Jews were going to be freed from slavery to Egypt. In that way, water to wine signaled the beginning of the deliverance of God's people. The Jews (and Gentiles) can be freed from slavery to sin.
Leave it to God, the greatest storyteller ever, to craft such an amazing connection in history. When God gave the Ten Plagues upon Egypt, even then, he knew his Son would die for the sins of the world. He gave us these connections so we may believe and have life in his name.
John 2:13-22 contains Jesus' first "cleansing" of the Temple where he denounces their evil practices concerning worship of God. Jesus' extreme reaction triggered a memory of scripture that applied to Jesus in this moment, Psalm 69 which says, "Zeal for your house will consume me." Certainly in this moment Jesus was consumed with zeal for God's house.
A subtle point in Psalm 69 applied to Jesus is his identifying with his heavenly Father over his earthly family. Listen to what that section of the psalm says,
[Psa 69:6-9 ESV] 6 Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. 7 For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face. 8 I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother's sons. 9 For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.
In chapter 2, at the wedding feast we see Jesus perhaps distancing himself from his mother. In this event we see Jesus distancing himself again from his earthly family and identifying with his heavenly Father.
Jesus calls the Temple, "my Father's house," which goes unchallenged here but not in chapter 5 (v. 18). Calling God "my father" was a form of blasphemy in the Jews' eyes. It was making yourself equal to God. The Jews would say, "God is much higher than you than a father to a son." But for Jesus, he is equal to God and can rightfully call him "my father." (For us Christians, we are adopted children and his creation; God graciously permits us to call him "our father," but Jesus' use of the term held a deeper meaning.)
Jesus echoes the feelings of this psalm. He is not thinking like a Jewish son of Mary and Joseph here; he is thinking like the Son of God the Father. He is concerned with God's house, not just his Temple but also his household.
The psalm says, "the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me." When God is insulted, Jesus is insulted. Jesus feels personally offended when they offend God. Jesus identifies himself with God so much that God's business is Jesus' business (Luke 2:49). That is the source of Jesus' zeal.
Isn't there a lesson for us in this? Do we identify ourselves with God? Do we think God's business is our business? Are we focused on the matters of God's house?
If we identify ourselves with God, view ourselves as God's children, and view our business as God's business, then we would be offended to see God's house abused like it was in John 2. Any offense to God is an offense to his children. As God's children we should feel a righteous indignation to hear or see someone abuse God's business or house.
We should echo twelve year old Jesus' words in Luke 2:49, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" Also translated, "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?"
Bobby Price was born and raised by Christian parents in Perrin, Texas. Bobby decided early in life to become a preacher of God's word. He attended the Sunset International Bible Institute in Lubbock, Texas where he graduated in 2015 with his Bachelors of Biblical Studies with a focus in Congregational Ministry. Afterwards, he interned for a year at the valley view Church of Christ in Jonesboro, AR. He is currently working on his Masters of Biblical Studies, through the Sunset International Bible Institute Graduate School.