Gordon Ramsay, the famous British chef, is known for his temper and foul mouth. I recently watched a YouTube video where he appeared on The Tonight Show. As part of the interview, the host had a “Swear Jar” for Gordon to put money in every time he cursed. It did not take long for the jar to begin filling up with bills.
Although Gordon Ramsay is known for his temper and language, we often use the same philosophy in our relationships. Many families live by the mantra: “If Mom is not happy, nobody is happy!” It is funny because we all know it is true. If the person in charge is upset, we should pay attention.
Let me apply that to the church: “If Jesus is not happy…”
We learn more about a person from the things they do not like than what they do like. When you were a kid, did you ever do something that made your parents mad? I know I did. And the next time you thought about doing it, did you hesitate for just a minute?
Many Christians today try to live their lives as “Red-letter Christians.” They base their lives on the words of Jesus that are printed in red! Some are hard to follow through. In Mark 11, Jesus made a whip and overturned tables. The Bible says Jesus told them to get out! In other places, He tells His listeners that they would be better off having a stone tied around their necks and thrown into the sea. He calls some a “child of hell.” Jesus was not very tactful. He did not beat around the bush.
Unfortunately, we look at Jesus differently than how the Bible describes Him. Our version is a bit of a hippie, going around telling people cute stories and healing those in need. It is a sanitized Sunday school version, much different than the Bible’s description.
Most of Jesus’ anger was directed at the Pharisees. They taught one thing and at times even walked it, but in their hearts, their motivation was not about God. They are seen in such a negative light, we often use their titles as a derogatory adjective.
It is easy to think that we are better than them, but if we are honest with ourselves, we may have more in common with them than we are willing to admit. In fact, I began to realize that the Pharisees were just the Church leaders of their day. I began to see that some of the things that caused Jesus to be mad at His church leaders might be my issue, too, as a current church leader. That was eye-opening.
I preached a sermon series out of the book of Galatians a couple of months ago. As I studied Jesus’ attitudes and Paul’s writings, I discovered four basic attitudes that pushed Jesus’ buttons: legalism, being judgmental, hypocrisy, and indifference to suffering.
Now, these make sense. In fact, I would say today’s church has a problem with each of them. Each of these attitudes made Jesus angry. Whenever Jesus encountered them, His response was often short and to the point. They were the gasoline to His flame! Unfortunately, there are times that our bad religious attitudes get in the way of God’s love.
One of the outcomes of Jesus’ coming into the world and dying on the cross for our sins was to provide for our access to the Father. We read in Matthew 27:51, when He was crucified, the veil was torn in the temple. This was an enormously symbolic piece of the crucifixion scene which demonstrated exactly what the Jesus mission was all about. We now have direct access to the Father.
God always wanted to be in a relationship with His children. We were created for that. So, even when people chose badly, God set up a religious system called Judaism to help us be as close to Him as possible. Although this system was temporary, its purpose and design were to restore the relationship with God after a transgression was committed.
By the time Jesus arrived, those leaders of that religion had made the system so complicated, and exclusive that those on the outside never felt like they had a chance. To those leaders, Jesus said in Matthew 23:13, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.”
When I read that verse, I wondered if it is possible we are doing the very same thing? When I bring up Jesus’ anger, our minds are naturally going to go to the big one in Mark 11. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the benches of those selling doves, and He would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.
I want you to keep that “door shutting” idea in your head as we think about what Jesus was mad about. As He was throwing stuff around, He said, or maybe yelled, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
The first church I was a pastor in was in a small city surrounded by agricultural land. Farmers made up a significant portion of the congregation. One of the teens wanted to sell eggs after the service. It caused a bit of conflict within the church as some believed there was a “rule” that you were not allowed to sell things in the church building. Now, it is interesting to note that they allowed bake sales, youth group and mission trip fundraisers and even silent auctions for a fundraiser to purchase land for a future building, but no egg sales!?
I found this ludicrous on so many levels. For one, the church is not the temple. According to 1 Corinthians 3:16, we are the temple of God’s Spirit. The church building is just a place where all the “temples” gather together. And for another, I do not believe Jesus was mad about the commerce itself. Yes, He called it a “den of robbers.” Yes, they were probably overcharging, and giving the temple leaders kickbacks.
However, if you look again at Jesus statement in Mark 11:17: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The way the temple was set up, there were special places called courts for all the Jews, and outside of all of that was the Court of Gentiles. This is where the robbers had set up shop: in the “All Nations” part of the temple. This was the place where God provided access to the rest of the world but was now being turned into a market. This story illustrates again the fact that those on the inside really did not care about those on the outside.
In other words, the outsiders, those who already felt farthest from the Father, were the ones who suffered the most. They were being robbed, not only by the exorbitant prices and fees but of their very access to worshiping God. This made Jesus angry! Why? Because that was what He came to provide.
As I read and studied this topic, everything about this story in Mark all begins to make sense. Jesus was not zealous for the actual building. He prophesied that it would be destroyed soon, and it was. Jesus was zealous for our access to God.
He came to rip the veil and give us an all-access pass to a beautiful relationship with our heavenly Father. The relationship for which we were created. He will throw tables or animals or people out of the way to give us an all-access pass. He gave up His own life, so we could get backstage.
I am not advocating for a resurgence in bake sales and doing business in the foyer of the church, but I am trying to help us get the point. Anything that gets in the way of God’s love, especially if it is instigated by God’s children, will make Jesus angry. It should make us angry, as well. If we see it, we should stop doing it.
Oftentimes, we Christians think Jesus is mad about stuff that does not make Him angry. And conversely, we do not think much about what actually does fire Jesus up. We want Jesus to be thrilled with us and not have to wonder “If Jesus is not happy…”
Christians are often known for what they do not do; drinking, smoking, swearing, go to movies… you know the list. But in our “zeal,” sometimes these “rules” or expectations, become obstacles and hurdles to people having an encounter with God and experience His love and grace. Jesus said in Matthew 18:11 that He came to “seek and save the lost.” Are our legalism and attitudes making it harder for His mission to be accomplished?