Greg's Blog

The First Palm Sunday and Jesus’ Righteous Anger

by Greg Laurie on Apr 8, 2022

What makes you really mad? I’m usually very irritable when I’m hungry. The term is hangry—hungry and angry combined.

But there are other things that also irritate me a little, and a lot of those things involve cellphones. They’ve taken over our lives and, in many ways, they’re ruining our lives. People don’t talk to each other anymore. Everyone is looking at their phones.

We all have things that anger us, but sometimes our anger actually can affect our health. According to a Harvard study, 10 million adult men in the United States are so angry, they’re actually physically sick. The disease even has a name: intermittent explosive disorder (IED).

Studies also have revealed that bad-tempered people are three times more likely to have heart attacks.

But here’s something that might surprise you: Sometimes it’s good to be angry. There’s a good kind of anger. In fact, you can tell a lot about a person by what makes him laugh and what makes him angry. Yet, we don’t want to have sinful anger.

The Bible tells us, “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26–27 NLT).

Jesus in Jerusalem

Even Jesus Christ was angry at times. In John 2:13–15, we find an account of Jesus going into the temple at Jerusalem and using a whip to drive out the money changers. He also overturned the tables.

His arrival in Jerusalem had been an attention-getter. He was very intentional as He was on His way into the city to begin the final part of His ministry. Jesus was incredibly popular at this point. His name was on everyone’s lips. If social media had existed back then, He would have had a huge following.

The people thought Jesus would overthrow the Romans and they would be free again. They thought He was about to establish His kingdom on Earth. But they misunderstood His mission. He was not coming to overthrow Rome’s army; He was coming to set God’s temple in order.

In many ways this was a bittersweet day. It was sweet because people were singing His praises for a moment. But it was bitter because these same, fickle people would turn on Him in a short period of time.

The people who were laying down palm branches before Him on the road and crying, “Hosanna!” soon would be shouting “Crucify Him!” Yes, He was the king for some, but only for a day—the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday.

Meaning of the Donkey

That day, Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, which may seem rather odd to us. Why would He choose this creature? Actually, the meaning was not lost on the Romans or the Jews. It really was a perfect choice.

In Roman culture when a hero returned from war as a victor, he would make his entrance riding a donkey, and people laid out palm branches before him. Therefore, the Romans would have understood that Jesus was effectively declaring Himself as a king.

But in Jewish culture they understood that when Messiah came, He would be riding a donkey as well. This was because the prophet Zechariah wrote, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt” (Zechariah 9:9 NLT).

Jesus’ arrival on a donkey was something very significant, and the people understood it. He was declaring Himself both a conqueror and the Messiah. He wasn’t riding into Jerusalem as a helpless victim but as a powerful victor, marching bravely into battle.

Jesus’ Holy Anger

So, what made Jesus mad? Luke’s gospel tells us, “Then Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people selling animals for sacrifices. He said to them, ‘The Scriptures declare, “My Temple will be a house of prayer,” but you have turned it into a den of thieves'” (19:45–46 NLT).

Understand, this was not an explosion of anger on Jesus’ part. This was righteous indignation. It was a holy anger. Mark gives us a few more details: “When they arrived back in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace” (Mark 11:15–16 NLT).

It’s a pretty violent act to overturn a table. Obviously, Jesus didn’t like what was going on there. What exactly was going on? Some people in the temple were taking advantage of those who had come to worship. They had “approved” animals the people could use for sacrifices, and they were selling them at inflated prices.

So, when worshipers arrived with their own animals, these people basically would say, “I’m sorry, that’s a blemish. You can’t offer that, but we have a great deal on our special, pre-approved, kosher animals. Why don’t you buy one of these?”

Instead of praying for the people, they were preying on the people, and they actually were keeping them from worshiping God.

Even in the Old Testament, God wanted both Gentiles and Jews to believe in Him. And God gets angry when we become barriers to people coming to Him.

This can happen in the church as well. We can exclude people who don’t look like “one of us,” whatever that may be in our minds. But the church should be available to everyone. It isn’t just a place for us to worship. It’s a place for us to reach out to lost people who need Jesus Christ.

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