What Did Jesus Get Upset About?

What Did Jesus Get Upset About? February 6, 2020

I’ve focused several times on the fact that evangelicals, in my opinion, get upset over the wrong things.  This came into focus again this past Sunday with the reaction of some evangelicals to the Super Bowl half-time show.  I didn’t see the half-time show as I was busy stuffing my face with great food and soothing adult beverages.  However, I have now watched parts of it and read some of the complaints, notably addressed here.  This one takes the cake though. Wow.

As many have pointed out already, you will forgive us, Mr. or Ms. Evangelical, if your complaints fall on deaf ears.  After all, many of you support a president, whether overtly or through your silence, who bragged about grabbing women by their private parts, paid off porn-stars, and is a serial adulterer.  He has spent his life objectifying women.  So please, sit down. You have zero moral authority to pronounce here.  And please don’t tell us the Bible does, because you hardly ever used that same Bible when it came to Mr. Trump.

Related is the reaction to Nancy Pelosi’s shredding of Trump’s state of the union speech as he concluded.  Her action pales in comparison to the ripping apart of immigrant families and the tearing apart of this republic by Mr. Trump.  That we would be offended by the one and not the other is incredible.  Again, sit down.

We all get upset by various things.  There is a wide swath of life that is subjective in this regard.  Something may upset me, that doesn’t upset you.  Mostly, these areas are all just pet peeves and things particular to each of us.  Many of them are based upon social, cultural, geographical, and age related, peculiarities.  Or, ignorance.

However, as humans, I would hope there are things that would upset all of us.  Things like cruelty, starving people, and the sufferings of the less fortunate in general.  I was never a fan of the, “What would Jesus do?” slogan or the idea we could know exactly what the Alpha and Omega, the “ground of all being,” would do in any given situation. That seems a bit much and a little arrogant.

Therefore, I’m not going to pose a question of, “What would Jesus get upset about,” as if we could simply copy some response or discern the mind of God regarding something that bothers us.  We often just want to justify our anger or actions, by noting that God would have done the same and we pull some verses out the Bible to prove our point.

I want to avoid that type of mentality.  What I do want however, is to simply note, from the Bible, instances where Jesus did get upset and the context for his being so. Take from that what you will.  And this isn’t an exhaustive study.  I’m sure I will leave many examples out. What I do note are just a few examples for the purposes of this post and its main point.

Probably the best-known example of Jesus getting angry, or upset, is in John 2:13 (and parallel Gospels), wherein we read:

“…In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he 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…”

New Testament Scholar Richard B. Hays writes of this passage:

“This incident is a forceful demonstration against a prevailing system in which violence and injustice prevail, a sign that Jesus intends to bring about a new order in accordance with Isaiah’s vision of eschatological peace.” (Pg. 335)

But notice this anger is directed at people in houses of worship, or today, what we would consider churches.  And these are, supposedly, church or religious people involved in the actions, to which, Jesus is responding.  What seemed to drive this anger and reaction was the intersection of mammon and worship—the economic profit off the religious devotion of others.  Let me think…where have I seen that before?  Oh, never mind, let’s get upset with these women and their dancing.

Another example of anger or being upset, if we are to judge by the language used, are the “seven woes” Jesus gives in Matthew 23.  Examples:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Again, these are directed not to the entertainers of his day, or women, but to the male religious authorities.  And it has something to do with seeing people through the prism of their inward heart attitude, and not by their outward appearances.  There is also the focus on greed, self-indulgence, hypocrisy, and lawlessness.

We also shouldn’t forget the focus, from the entire Bible, on issues of poverty, use of wealth, and the treatment of orphans, widows, and the stranger (or immigrant).  The OT prophets and NT writers took these matters very seriously and were angry or upset when these people were not treated well.  These are the areas where their time and focus were spent.

Let me address the anticipated question: “Can’t we be upset with both—the things Jesus is upset with in these passages and the half-time show?”  Well, yes, of course.  The problem though is one of scale.  One set of issues pales in comparison to the other.  The other problem is frequency, and thus, hypocrisy.  When one has been silent about the first, and often loudly complains about the second, such does not grant much weight to one’s display of outrage.  It’s not a false choice or dichotomy—it reveals a deep moral confusion regarding what should truly bother us.

Here is the question I have for evangelicals: Why is it you are frequently, publicly, upset about issues we rarely, if ever, see Jesus (or the OT or NT writers) getting upset about, even putting aside the obviously different historical contexts?  And, conversely, why are you rarely, publicly, upset with, or angered by, the same issues that seemed to bother Jesus and the prophets quite a bit?

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  • Yes, thank you.

  • Nimblewill

    “However, as humans, I would hope there are things that would upset all of us. Things like cruelty, starving people, and the sufferings of the less fortunate in general.”

    What if they had spent half-time bringing these things to our attention? What if they had not refused to show us this……… https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/02/03/watch-the-abortion-survivors-ad-too-powerful-for-the-super-bowl/

    What if, instead of Donald Trump and Jaylo’s crotch the media brought things that mattered to our TV screens. I think that maybe you too are focusing on the wrong thing! As humans we generally do. It’s easier to blame Evangelicals and Progressives that be His hands and feet.

  • Newton Finn

    Well said, for so many of us.

  • Marc Wagner

    Jesus was compassionate toward the sinner. Even the woman at the well, who prayed to God in the mountains, instead of the Temple.
    He was not compassionate toward the hypocrite.
    Nor was Jesus compassionate toward the self-righteous.

    Billy Graham was a humble man. He would never have approved of Donald J Trump (thought he would have prayed for him). Nor, do I suspect, that he would have approved of his son’s remarks supporting Trump.

    As for the second article of which you spoke, no one (except yourself) can put your Eternal Salvation (whatever that term means to you) at risk. No one forces any of us to take part of anything which we find offensive. If we partake, for whatever reason, maybe it could be considered a “sin” but we, as Christians, ask for forgiveness for our sins — and we are assured that we are both loved and forgiven — unconditionally.

    Don’t blame the NFL, or anyone else because you were offended by what you saw. You could have turned it off!

  • Marc Wagner

    Its not up to the NFL, or the TV networks, to remind us of … “Things like cruelty, starving people, and the sufferings of the less fortunate in general.”

    We already know these things. It’s up to our leaders (be they religious or political) to guide us, through their actions, their humanity, their compassion, of those things they most value — as our moral compass. Clearly, today’s most well-known evangelical leaders care far less about what is moral than they do about the power of their association with Donald Trump.

  • Judgeforyourself37

    Simply stated if he was offended a the attire of the young women performing at half time, he could have switched channels until the game resumed. You do not have to “pluck out your eyes” if you see something that is offensive, just closing your eyes is the wiser choice. Use the brains that God gave you, unless, of course, you thought that God said. “Trains” and you arrived too late to catch that train.

  • It’s always interesting to read these articles and see how our President is woven into them. You start out highlighting the Super Bowl halftime show and then magically switch tp President Trump. I didn’t see him on stage with Shakira or Jay Lo. Did I miss him? Serial adulterer – sounds like Bill Clinton. Wealthy NY playboy – guilty.

    Did it ever occur to you that at church services many, if not half, of the members have committed adultery, thought about committing adultery, discussed that thought with others? No condemnation there – many might be Leftists.

    Then you conflate the ignorant and disrespectful actions of Pleosi on world wide TV with enforcing immigration law which was the President’s signature promise – a promise he is keeping. Pelosi was wrong to do that ans wrong about everything regarding impeachment. A fact the Senate crammed down her throat last week. She said in a press conference she did not hate the President and that she prayed for him – quite a contrast.

    The point you miss is the anger Jesus directed at the Pharisees is to teachers who don’t teach the Law but rather what they feel ought to be the Law; the greed evident in ther practices and thier Lawlessness evident in their services. Today Jesus would add thier Blogs.

  • Nimblewill

    We are in agreement. I do believe that there is something about power that skews morality though.

  • Marc Wagner

    Power corrupts. Reminds me of the college basketball team on a winning streak. They start to believe their press clippings — suddenly, some third tier team comes into town and beats them.

    When we are surrounded by like-minded people of similar background, we lose perspective and soon cannot relate to those with different circumstances and therefore different perspectives.

  • Nimblewill

    I taught for 26 years and I’m now a school administrator. I have to constantly remind myself what teachers go through on a daily basis. So yes, its even harder when we can’t relate at all.