The Angry Jesus

Third Sunday of Lent - Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Cor 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25
Rev. John Tran Kha, Houston, TX

A father saw his son sitting on top of another boy in the front yard.
"Jimmy, " said the father. "Why are you holding Tommy to the ground like that?"
"He hit me in the eye, " yelled Jimmy.
"How many times, " reminded the father, "have I told you to count up to one hundred before you lose your temper?"
"I know, " puffed Jimmy. "I am counting up to one hundred, but I'm making sure he'll be here when I get through counting. "


Can we justify our anger?

Anger is a strong feeling of displeasure or rage. Parents can be angry and mad at their children when they misbehave or when they do not listen and obey. Children can be angry and mad at their parents when they do not get things their way. We are angry and mad at Osama Bin Laden and the Al Queida organization over the September 11th attack of the Word Trade Center killing more than 3, 000 lives. The United States and the coalition forces are mad at Sadam Hussein because he posed as a thorn and a threat to our national security and the security of the world. Many people are angry and mad at the U. S. because we are invading Iraq and trying to take down Sadam Hussein's regime. The dramatic televised images of deafening, earthshaking explosions in the middle of Baghdad, with fireballs and large clouds of black smoke rising from the debris, manifest sign of this anger right in front of us at our home.

When and how can our anger be justified?

The Angry Jesus

Jesus went to Jerusalem for Passover. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the moneychangers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. And to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace. "

Seeing what Jesus is doing, the Jews are angry with Jesus. They challenge, "What sign can you show us for doing this?" Jesus is angry at what he sees in the temple area. The Jews are angry at Jesus' action. Who is right? Jesus or the Jews?

Since Jesus has been seen as a compassionate, sensitive, understanding and forgiving person, to understand his actions, we must remember that throughout history, the human race has built monuments to whatever it holds sacred. Stonehenge, the great Greek and Roman temples and Pyramids, shrines and altars to whatever gods hold human's devotion. So too the Jewish people build their temple. The Ark of the Covenant is there. It is a holy place, dedicated to worship. It reminds the Jewish people of their particular and special relationship with God. Housed in the temple are the Commandments, given by God so that the people might rightly order their lives. The first reading tells us that God would be mad at His people if they disobey and turn to worship other gods. "I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments. "

Jesus sees not only the misuse of the temple, the desecration of his Father's house, but also the misuse of people by the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. They have lost the true meaning of worship. To further understand Jesus' anger, we should turn back to the criticism the Jewish prophets.

Amos, for instance, says to the people on behalf of God, "I hate, I spurn your feasts; I take no pleasure in your solemnities. Your cereal offerings I will not accept, nor consider your stall-fed peace offerings. Away with your noisy songs! When you present your sacrifices and offerings I will not accept them" (5:21-23). Why? Because they do not live justly and lovingly.

Isaiah says on behalf of God, "Do you think I want all these sacrifices you keep offering to me? I have had more than enough of sheep you burn as sacrifices and of the fat of your fine animals. I am tired of the blood of bulls and sheep and goats. Who asked you to bring me all this when you come to worship me? Who asked you to do all this tramping around in my Temple? It is useless to bring your offerings. I am disgusted with the smell of the incense you burn. I cannot stand your New Moon Festivals, your Sabbaths, and your religious gathering; they are all corrupted by your sins. . . When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with blood. Wash yourselves clean. Stop all this evil that I see you doing. Yes, stop doing evil and learn to do right. See that justice is done - help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows (1:11-17).

It is easier to use material good such as money, flowers, fruits, bread, and animals as a sacrifice to offer to God. These, however, are only material things. We use them as the symbols of our greater sacrifices. God wants us to sacrifice our selfishness, our sinful way of life. God wants the sacrifice of our hearts and love. It is also easier to let our anger outburst; but it is difficult to know when our anger is justified and when it is not. Jesus shows his anger at the temple area. People question his actions. But later on, many begin to believe in his name when they see the signs he is doing.

Our Actions of War

Many people in the country as well as around the world are questioning the war led by the United States and the Coalition forces. Our leaders continue to emphasize that we are aiming at disarming Sadam Hussein and his regime and not the Iraqi people. Secretary Rumsfeld has insisted that the strikes were carefully targeted against military installations and kept away from civilians. Every target was carefully analyzed, the most appropriate weapon selected, and the approach and time of day carefully picked in a humane effort to minimize the loss of civilian lives. There is evidence that the attacks are indeed carefully calibrated. The lights in Baghdad remained on, the water was running and the phones were working, reflecting a determination to avoid damage that would disrupt the lives of the residents.

Whether we want this war or not, we are involved now. We share responsibility and we are held accountable to this war. We must continue to pray that no technical glitches that can thwart the best-made plans that could cause substantial civilian damage. We must continue to pray and make sure that our leaders will commit to help the people of Iraq to rebuild their lives and their country. When we do this, the world will see the goodness of our nation and our people, and they will believe us.

Rev. John Tran Kha
Houston, TX


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