How many of us growing up heard the title’s words from a parent or another adult? Temper, Temper now, you better get things under control and don’t throw a fit. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. My sister, Robin, as a toddler had a temper. She would start to throw a fit and when that wasn’t working she would hold her breath. Now I am sure in her young mind she thought that holding her breath would scare Mom so she would change her mind and let Robin do what she wanted. Did it work? No, it didn’t for Mom knew if she held her breath long enough; Robin would pass out and start breathing again automatically. Sounds cruel, but it isn’t. I don’t think Robin tried that for very long. I don’t remember myself throwing any tantrums but I learned quickly that getting mad at Dad not for a good reason, I am sure, wasn’t the smartest thing to do. Trust me; slamming a door in a parent’s face is not a good thing to do. I will never forget those garden gloves with the black rubber dots.
We could tell stories and compare notes all morning about how well a fit of temper or a temper tantrum did or didn’t work. Maybe at times getting angry and slamming a door does work as long as no one is hurt or anything is broken. It helps release that buildup of pressure and the anger goes away. It is inevitable that we will be angry at one point or another. Most of the time the anger is not justified. Whatever caused that anger could have been handled in a much more reasonable manner. But, there are times when being angry about something works to your benefit. If someone you care about is wronged or there is something that you feel strongly about is being put down then becoming angry could be beneficial. For the anger gives you fuel to right that wrong as long as it is done in a constructive manner.
We come now to the scripture that I read. Jesus goes to Jerusalem and went to the temple. It was close to the time of Passover and it was customary for vendors to have the perfect animal to buy for a sacrifice to God, which brought the money changers. Also there were those that sold doves. It was a normal part of preparing for Passover. However, when Jesus saw this he became angry, made a whip of cords, drove the animals out of the temple, tipped over the money changers tables with coins falling everywhere, and yelling at the dove sellers to get those doves out of the temple. Pretty much, Jesus threw a serious temper tantrum! Even though this was the norm for their time, it wasn’t what Jesus wanted to see happening in the temple, in his Father’s house. He wanted the temple to be a place for the people coming to hear God’s word and to see the sacrifices being made, to hear the confessions of sin and the songs being sung. Do you think it would have been easy to be able to hear God’s word being read or said, when there are sheep bleating, cows mooing, money changers beckoning people to their tables and all the doves cooing at one time? It sounds very chaotic to me and definitely not anything that I would think a place of worship would be like. It would be like us trying to have a service on a hot summer’s day with the doors open and all we can hear is the traffic going down Washington street, the neighborhood dogs barking at the people going by and so on. Do you think your mind would be on the sermon or the scripture being read? Would even a hymn being played and sung be enough to keep you focused. I think not.
So, in this case, the temper tantrum was justified, it was necessary to get things under control so that the temple would become a house of worship again. It is a good reminder for us to know that there are times when God isn’t as tolerant as we would like to think. We can mistake patience with acceptance. We can get complacent and not realize that the things we could be doing are not how God would have us be. Maybe it takes a temper tantrum to wake us up.
Jesus continues his tantrum when he is asked by the people in charge of the temple, just what he thought he was doing. Was Jesus able to prove the things that Jesus said He would do? How did they know he was Jesus and not just somebody who was throwing a fit? Jesus answered them by saying “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” The Jews responded by saying “It took forty-six years to build this temple! How are you are going to raise it in three days?” But Jesus wasn’t talking about the temple, the building, he was talking about himself. He would be the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world, it wouldn’t be necessary any longer to have animals to sell for sacrifices, no more dove sellers, or money changers. He was the one coming to get rid of sin, guilt, and death itself. He was the fulfillment of all of it.
At the time the disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about. So there was a reason for the anger, for the temper tantrum that Jesus threw at the temple. It made an impression on the disciples and when Jesus was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that He had said that He would raise this temple in 3 days, meaning himself. This helped them to believe the Scripture and what Jesus had said. It helped them to realize that the death of Jesus and his resurrection was all according to the plan. It gave Jesus an opportunity to prophesy the sign of His own death and resurrection and to drop an anchor for the souls of the disciples to grab hold of in faith and all was said and done.
Though it is hard to picture an angry Jesus, sometimes it is a necessary picture of Jesus. We easily see the kind Jesus, the forgiving and merciful Jesus. We would rather picture Him with a smile of His face. But sometimes we need to see the angry Jesus as well. It reminds us that we are sinners. It reminds us that He is holy. It reminds us that at times we deserve God’s wrath. It reminds us that his wrath is needed when we forget what God would have us be and have us do. We need to remember that this is what Jesus came to do for us, to make the sacrifice of himself with death on the cross to cleanse us of our sins. It is the picture that we need to hold onto and believe. Christ is crucified for us and for our salvation.
So at times remember the angry Jesus, remember what He did at the temple in Jerusalem. Remember that his anger was for a good cause, to make the temple a place of worship again, not a place for animals to sell, money changers. Remember that we need to remember what God would have us be and have us do, so that He doesn’t have to show his anger to get us back on track in our lives.