What Makes Jesus Angry? Let’s Talk About Righteous Anger

Sam Larrabee • 7 minutes

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What’s something that makes you angry? Maybe someone did something to you or a loved one. Or maybe you see an injustice in the world and want to fight to make it right. Jesus can relate to those feelings. 

Anger can be dangerous, but it isn’t sinful. So, how do we process our anger in a healthy way? And how do we avoid letting anger lead us to harmful outcomes? Let’s talk about it. Together, we’ll explore what many people call “righteous anger.” 

To start, let’s ask a simple question: What makes Jesus angry?

What Makes Jesus Angry?

In the final days before His death, Jesus goes to the temple courtyard, shouts, flips tables, and drives people away. It’s a dramatic and shocking moment. So why is Jesus so angry? We get a clue from Jesus’ words as He’s clearing the temple:

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” Matthew 21:13 NIV

In this verse, Jesus quotes two verses from earlier in the Bible. The “house of prayer” comes from Isaiah 56:7, where the temple is described as a gathering place for everyone. The “den of robbers” is pulled from Jeremiah 7:11, in which certain leaders were accused of creating injustice. 

So what was Jesus saying? He was angry that those in charge of the temple were letting money get in the way of people who wanted to experience God. How did that happen?

The Significance of the Temple

In Jesus’ day, people relied on the temple as a social and spiritual gathering place. People traveled thousands of miles with their friends and families to give offerings to God and hear from spiritual leaders.

It can’t be overstated how meaningful the temple was to Jesus’ people. To them, It was more than just a building—it was the meeting place between heaven and earth.

Some People Couldn’t Access the Temple

The temple had different sections, and only a select group of people could access certain areas. But there was one place where anyone could go to worship God. 

The Court of the Gentiles was the outer courtyard of the temple. It was the one place where people who didn’t fit the religious requirements of the day could worship. It was the most accessible place, but it was also under threat.

Certain leaders had allowed the Court of the Gentiles had become a shopping center, leaving the religious and cultural outsiders without a place to worship. These outsiders had little influence and no voice or power to change things. Powerful people profited from the trade in the temple, and they had access to other sections of the temple to worship. So they had little motivation to create justice.

What Causes Jesus’ Righteous Anger?

A core theme of Jesus’ ministry was helping outsiders feel included. He constantly affirmed God’s love for everyone. He also challenged powerful leaders who felt that only certain people deserved God’s care. 

So He walked into a place designed for worship, but there were no worshipers. Why? Because powerful religious insiders allowed shopkeepers to drive away worshipers. Of course Jesus was angry. Who wouldn’t be?

Jesus felt righteous anger. Righteous anger is the feeling we get when we’re frustrated by hurtful actions or systems that cause pain in our life or in the lives of others.

Righteous anger isn’t a sin. In fact, it’s a way we relate to God, because God feels righteous anger too when things aren’t how they should be

What Did Jesus Do With His Righteous Anger?

When Jesus saw this injustice in the temple, He took drastic action. He drove the people out and welcomed religious and social outsiders back into the temple. In probably less than fifteen minutes, Jesus restored the temple to its original purpose. 

But this story is just one example of Jesus feeling righteous anger. In a different situation, Jesus felt angry when a religious leader didn’t think Jesus should heal people on a traditional day of rest. Jesus’ anger led Him to heal the person anyway.

He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! Mark 3:5 NLT

Jesus’ anger on these two occasions caused Him to take two different kinds of actions. But they both led to a common result: Jesus’ anger led to healing.

How can we respond like Jesus?

Jesus felt anger, so it’s not a sin to be angry. But we should be cautious in our anger. We all know of situations where anger has led to needless pain. So let’s learn from Jesus and let Him coach us on how to process our anger.

1. Jesus felt love-fueled anger.

Love for others fueled Jesus’ anger. He wanted everyone to experience God’s love and felt angry when things got in the way. So, His anger was rooted in love for everyone. 

While He felt anger toward those creating harm, He still loved them. He hated their actions, but He didn’t hate them. So even when we feel anger toward someone, we can’t lose sight of their God-given value. 

2. Jesus didn’t let anger take control.

It’s easy to let anger start to control us. When we let that happen, disaster tends to follow. When Jesus felt anger, He didn’t lose control. Instead, He used wisdom to decide the best way forward.

In one situation, He calmly healed a man. In a different situation, He dramatically drove people away. In both situations, Jesus chose to help people without causing permanent harm to anyone. He felt anger, but didn’t let it cloud His judgment.

So, when we feel anger, let’s take a moment to breathe. Acting out of anger can lead to needless harm to you and the people around you. That’s not to say we should be passive. Instead, we should take action that helps others.

3. Jesus wasn’t always angry.

Jesus didn’t turn tables and shout at people every time He got angry. Sometimes, He got angry and simply healed someone. Other times, He removed Himself from the situation. Jesus got angry, but He didn’t make a habit of acting in anger.

If you’re in a season where you’re consistently feeling angry in every area of your life, try talking to someone. A friend, family member, pastor, or professional counselor are great options. Consistent anger that leads you to a positive goal can be good, but living in constant anger isn’t healthy. In other words, Jesus turning tables one time doesn’t give us permission to be angry all the time.

What Makes You Angry?

Jesus witnessed powerful people taking advantage of outsiders, and it made Jesus angry. So, let’s go back to what makes you angry.

Maybe it’s the hurtful words someone said to you or someone you love. Or it might be a group of people who spread hurtful views on social media. It could be a big-picture pattern of injustice that you see in the world today, like human trafficking.

Remember, righteous anger is healthy and holy. Why? Because God feels anger. He loves His creation and He wants what’s best for all of us. So, anger isn’t evil when it reflects the righteousness of God’s anger toward injustice.

What makes Jesus angry can make us angry too.

When a person or people are needlessly hurt, we can be angry. Or when a group of people are told they’re somehow unworthy of God’s love, we can be angry. And when people put comfort, profit, or power over the needs of others, we can be angry.

In our anger, we still love those who create harm. But love for everyone doesn’t make us passive. We can call for change, take action in unjust parts of society, and work toward accountability and restoration for those responsible for injustice.

What if I’m angry all the time?

All of our stories are different. You might have experienced unimaginable pain because of someone else’s actions. Now, it feels like your life is defined by anger. If so, then it might be wise to seek guidance from God through prayer and ask for wisdom from trusted friends. 

Those helpful voices can help you find ways to express your anger in healthy, life-giving ways. They might also be able to help you process anger in other ways, like seeking forgiveness

Is the Anger We’re Feeling Leading to Healing?

Jesus felt anger, and His anger led to healing. So, when we feel anger, we need to ask ourselves, “Is the anger I’m feeling leading to healing?” It’s not always easy to tell in the moment, and that’s why processing our anger through prayer and trusted relationships is vital. 

For more on how to think, live, and love like Jesus, check out this article.