He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” (Mark 3:5)
This was written about Jesus in the midst of a test the Pharisees were putting him through. Would he heal on the Sabbath or not? Jesus calls a man with a shriveled hand to the front and poignantly asks, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” (verse 4), but the Pharisees will not answer.
Here is where Jesus’ anger becomes evident. The word used here is often translated “wrath” and is normally accompanied by punishment or vengeance. Here are men who are supposed to be responsible for the well-being of the people, but who are more concerned about whether Jesus will violate a rule they created than they are about this man’s healing. Jesus cannot abide such obstinate and uncaring hearts. When he sees this example of the leaders’ failure to care for God’s precious people the distress and discomfort of his heart leads to anger.
If Jesus did not care for people and were not morally compelled to help ones God invested with such value, he would not be a good man. Anger is the appropriate response of any moral being to wrong done against others.
Though a less strong word is used in Mark 10:14, we have another instance of such anger. “ People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant” (Mark 10:13,14). Jesus’ anger is now directed at his own disciples. He is irritated, annoyed, or, to use an old-fashioned word, vexed. Even though the disciples were well meaning, they were wrong. And Jesus wanted them to know they were wrong and feel the brunt of his displeasure so that they would also see the importance of these children.
The most talked about anger of Jesus is that displayed when he “cleansed” the Temple. We read, “When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:14-16)
Someone has said that “he who loves men must needs hate with a burning hatred all that does wrong to human beings.” In one sense we might say that Jesus’ mercy toward sinners was proven by his anger toward their sin. If Jesus did not hate our sinfulness toward others but merely pardoned us out of tolerance, it would not be mercy. Mercy is only possible when there is an underlying presence of indignation. And such mercy must be bought at a price, because the indignation that sin deserves cannot be satisfied without a penalty.
Jesus was angry at the sin of men and the men who sinned. But this was only because he loved and loves human beings so much, enough, in fact, to take the penalty his own indignation requires upon himself.