Home Sermons Sunday 7th March
March 7th, 2021
John 2: 13-22
We don’t very often talk about anger in church, do we, but
it is very clear from our reading this morning that Jesus
was an angry young man when he tipped over the tables
of the moneychangers and ordered the pigeon sellers out
of the Temple.
There are many people who say things like: “It’s not
Christian to be angry”, or “it’s sinful to be angry” or “aren’t
Christians supposed to turn the other cheek” but I believe
there is a time and a place for anger. It is not the anger
that is evil or sinful, it is how we use the energy it
produces that can be bad. There is such a thing as good
and appropriate anger. Good anger is that which stems
from love. It is the anger which flows from our love of God,
our respect for our own integrity, and our compassion for
misled and mistreated humanity.
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians says “Be angry but do
not sin,” and in today’s reading Jesus displayed that good
brand of uncontaminated anger.
As I just said there is good anger. There is godly anger.
There is the type of anger Jesus displayed when he
entered the temple courts and confronted the marketeers
in there. Making a whip leaves us in no doubt about how
he felt. Grabbing the cash boxes and flinging them across
the paving stones, driving men and animals out of the
temple court, ordering the pigeon sellers to clear out, is
enough evidence of the anger of Jesus. On top of that
John tells us the disciples remembered the Bible text:
“Zeal for your house, O God, will burn me up.”
There may have been a number of reasons why Jesus
was so angry about that temple market, a market which
was established and managed by the priests, and the
money from which ended up in the grasping hands of the
elite, priestly hierarchy.
Maybe he had been wondering about this temple abuse
ever since he visited the temple as a child, and stayed
behind to ask awkward questions of the temple staff.
Perhaps one of those childhood questions had been,
“Why do you allow any part of God’s house to be turned
into a common market?” We don’t know.
It is possible that for years Jesus had been waiting for the
opportune time to challenge this sacrilege. Perhaps like a
young Abraham Lincoln, who on observing a slave
market, vowed: “If I ever get the chance to hit this thing, I
will hit it hard.”
We can easily find a number of possible reasons for
Jesus’ words and actions that day. With good cause, the
cause of love for God and humanity, he was an angry
It certainly was not the only time when Jesus became
angry. Do you remember that occasion once in a
synagogue on the Sabbath day when Jesus noticed a
man with a withered hand. As his enemies looked on, he
openly offended them by daring to heal that man. Mark
says: “Jesus looked around at them with anger, grieved at
the hardness of their hearts.” Because he loved those on
the fringes of society, cared about sick and poor people,
Jesus was angry with those self righteous types who put
their fussy religious regulations ahead of loving actions.
On another occasion he was angry with the disciple Peter.
Last Sunday we witnessed the anger of Jesus when Peter
tried to dissuade him from talking about the cross that lay
ahead of him. Peter was tempting Jesus to surrender his
own spiritual integrity. Out of respect, or love for his own
true soul, Jesus turned on Peter and rebuked him. “Get
behind me Satan.”
Matthew tells us that one day Jesus became frustrated
with some of the Pharisees. He turned on those among
the Pharisees who not only despised the lower classes but
put stumbling blocks between the poor and their God.
Jesus poured out a torrent of condemnation on them. You
will find his extraordinary, angry attack on hypocrites in
Matthew chapter 23.
Jesus was angry out of love. He fulfilled the Scripture: “Be
angry and sin not.”
If we are to follow in the footsteps of that angry young
man, Jesus, then some anger should have a place in our
lives. So what are some of the things that make us
How can we not get angry when we find devious
behaviour in the high places of religion. When sexual
abuse is covered up and the victims made the
How can we not get angry when finicky points of church
law are allowed to outrank the value of Christian love, and
as a result keep Christians separated? We have
experienced this ib the demand that every church had to
have a DEE – Detailed Engineering Evaluation. This cost
my previous parish $11,500 and was done by 2 men who
no doubt had engineering qualifications but who had
absolutely no knowledge of NZ heartwood timber and did
not do any intrusive investigations. In my opinion they
were incompetent. The same thing happened at
Hawarden where they didn’t notice that there was bracing
on both sides of the addition to the Sunday School room
nor did they test to see if the summerhill cladding was
attached to the framework of the building, Thank
goodness we were able to find the original plans and they
could see for themselves how wrong they had been.
It is right to be angry when our politicians (no matter what
party is in power) appear to only develop a social
conscience for the underprivileged when an election is in
the offing; or when the cause of some individual is taken
up in a burst of publicity by people like the late Paul
Holmes or John Campbell.
It is right to get angry if churches judge themselves as
successful by the size of a congregation rather than by
their quality of love offered to the needy and the
marginalised members of the community? Or when “all
people are treated as equal but some are obviously more
equal than others.”.
It is right to get angry when in our towns and cities the
elderly can get bashed and raped for their few pension
dollars? Or when small children are exploited by the
obscene child pornography industry. The list is endless.
Lent is a good time to be angry, but not if we use our
anger wilfully. It’s not a good anger unless we focus on
practical things that we might be able to do to redress
wrongs. Our anger needs to be focussed on attainable
targets and it must be carefully applied. And this is where
the crunch comes. Getting angry is not difficult.
Expressing our anger in appropriate ways is.
Anger produces energy and we need to find ways to use
that energy that is creative and not destructive. I have
been known to mow lawns, dig a garden or pound out
Beethoven piano sonatas when I have been angry.
We also need to be careful about the focus of our anger
so that our energy is used in the right way and does not
harm another person. And sometimes we need to ask
ourselves why is it that a particular situation or issue
arouses anger in us. Is our anger righteous or not? If by
using anger I constantly intimidate other people then this
is wrong. I enjoy a good debate – theological or
otherwise, but it is wrong if the argument and the strong
feelings turn on the person and not the issue.
When in doubt, I believe it is best if we vent our anger to
God. If we look at the Psalms there are numerous times
when the psalmist expresses anger to God. As I have
said many times when we were exploring the covenant
God made with Noah, the visible sign of this covenant is
the bow. That the bow is now suspended in the sky
means that God has made a gesture of disarmament and
has hung up the primary weapon in a gesture of peace
and reconciliation. And if we explore this image a little
further we will see that if any arrows were to be shot from
this bow they would be pointing towards God and away
from humankind. It reminds us that God can and does
absorb everything that we can fire at him – our anger, our
pain, our distrust of others.
We also need to remember that love is the only guideline
we have. Not any old brand of love, but the Jesus brand. It
must be the kind of love that Jesus lived. It must stem
from “Love God with all your heart and mind and soul and
strength, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.”
Such love can be costly. Sometimes it will mean “taking up
our own cross and following Jesus.
With that tough yet tender quality of love in mind, I invite
you to use Lent, not to deny and suppress your
indignation over wrongs, but to face it and use it pro-
actively. I invite you to take the initiative and focus your
anger in practical ways, no matter how small. You and I
might only be able to strike what seem minute blows
against evil, but that is worth it. It is from the pool of those
who are faithful in the little things, that God can find the
right people to tackle larger challenges.
The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that
Good Men Do Nothing