The Wrath of God’s Son
“Making a whip of cords, [Jesus] drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables” (v. 15).- John 2:13–17
Theologians often speak of the Creator-creature distinction as a way to remind us that there is often a difference between what is lawful for us to do and what is right for the holy Lord to do. A clear example of this is God’s demand that we worship Him. He has every right to call for His creation to praise His name. After all, He is the Sovereign of the universe. Yet, we may not call for others to worship us or to worship other gods. We are creatures, and every other deity worshipped on the earth is a product of mankind’s sinful imagination (Ex. 20:3; Rom. 1:18–32).
Since everything that the Lord does is holy and good, considering His actions can help us understand whether certain activities are evil in and of themselves. The Father and the Son get angry (Ps. 7:11–13; Rev. 14:14–20), so we know that anger is not inherently sinful because God can do no wrong (James 1:13). However, given the Creator-creature distinction, is the Almighty alone capable of righteous anger? We can answer this question by looking at the example of Jesus. Our Lord and Savior is truly God and truly man. He came as the last Adam to redeem us from our sin through the offering of Himself as a perfect, sinless substitute. If He had sinned, He could not have earned the righteousness that we need to be justified, and He could not have atoned for our sin. The Father raised the Son for our justification, proving His sinlessness (Rom. 4:23–25; see also 1 Peter 2:22). He never failed to obey God perfectly, so we know that He always did what is right in His earthly ministry. Thus, His anger, as recorded in today’s passage, was a holy and righteous anger.
The anger Jesus displays in today’s passage was a consequence of His position as both the Son of God who is jealous for His worship and the perfect human being who has the right priorities and is zealous for the house of the Lord. It was right for Him, according to His humanity, to be angry with the money-changers and animal traders for defiling the temple, exploiting the Passover pilgrims, and taking up the one space where the Gentiles could pray to the Creator under the old covenant. Christ possesses a true human nature just like we do, albeit without sin. If He can get angry without sinning, then there are times when we can do the same.
Getting angry without sinning is hard for us to do as fallen creatures, but Jesus’ example shows us that it is possible. We should feel a righteous anger when we see the worship of God defiled, and it should motivate us to righteous action and to pray for the souls of those who do not treat the Lord with reverence. If we feel no anger at all when we witness false worship of our Creator, then we must ask Him to create in us a zeal for His praise on the earth.
Passages for Further Study