Anger: Zeal for Righteousness

May 2011 Blog:

  Mark 11:15-17
"Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said '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' "

In this passage we see our Lord in another light. He starts off on this journey hungry. He is walking and talking with his disciples as usual on the way to his Father’s house. Along the way there is a fig tree with its sturdy trunk, solid branches and glossy green expanse of leaves- spread out like hands in praise. The leaves are wide so you cannot see the fruit but there is anticipation underneath their broad expanse of clusters of delicious fruit. Christ looks and sees no fruit- “the time for the fig was not yet”.
But He expected there to be fruit because the leaves and the season promised them. Our Lord was fired up with anger and cursed the tree. The disciples, like me must have been astonished by this expression of passion. We could interpret it as impulse and emotive behaviour. In that scene, I surmise that Christ was revealing much more about God’s hatred for sin: His wrath and anger for double-mindedness. The fig tree promised much just like- us with our temporary zeal for God. But underneath the beautiful glossy garments- our whitewashed robes of righteousness, we reveal dead men’s bones and there is no fruit!
This was a precursor to what was to come- when we pretend to serve the master and pretend to do good works and do not- despite all our master’s providence:
- The sunshine
- The fertile soil
- The spring and autumn rains

We too can grow up to become solid and sturdy, robust and promising- but in reality we are working for ourselves and not the master.
The scene unfolds further. Jesus arrives at the temple- which we now recognise as his bride, the body of which he is the head, designed to represent Him, reflect his character and implement his mission. At that time the temple was the house of God, “the house of prayer for all nations” where believers would meet and seek God to understand his will through His appointed ministers.
Christ’s anger directed towards the fig tree was merely a warm up for the real thing- His wrath towards those who flouted their evil practices right under God’s nose in His very house. Making a mockery of the sacred- calling “good evil and evil good” (Isaiah 5:20). He overturned tables, swept contraband onto the floor and cast out the moneychangers- his authority must have been awesome!! Those in the wrong must have been dumbstruck- there was no resistance. They were chastened, rebuked and instead of humility and repentance they simmered with rage. These were the same ones who devised evil in their hearts which would eventually convict and crucify him- they would rather free an evil criminal than confess their sins. In this scene we get a glimpse of the depravity of sin- it is like a tumour that takes over and eventually kills us spiritually if left unchecked.
I am reminded of the letter to the Church of Laodicea (revelation 3:17) “because thou sayest I am rich and increased in goods and in need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” such is the condition of the scribes and Pharisees.
We learn from this scene that they were not seeking to do the will of God- by keeping His commandments and doing the things that please Him. They were in fact as Christ describes them in Matthew 23:23, 27:
“For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone... Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and all uncleanness”.
Christ explains the reasons for his holy zeal in Matthew 23- it is the fear of the Lord in action. In it he teaches us to hate evil and overcome evil with good (Proverbs 8:13, Romans 12:21). He is angry about sin in all its forms- just like the deceptive fig tree, just like the evil in the temple- each example has gone against the will of God for the sake of selfish gain.
Anger/wrath is clearly an emotion used for divine purposes. Throughout the bible we have descriptions of God who does become angry and exercises judgement against sin. God wants us to have a hatred for evil, but often we respond in ignorance by adding evil to evil. God is holy, perfect and just as light and dark cannot co-exist- evil cannot exist in His sight. He has given us anger so that we can exercise holy zeal on His behalf that His work can be done on earth. How often do we abuse it?
In Mark 11:20 we see the fate of the cursed fig tree- it is withered away. There is a powerful message for us in the way we would seek to live our lives- in bearing fruit as individuals and as the body of Christ in making God’s House a House of Prayer for ALL nations.
©, 2011 (all rights reserved)

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