Zeal and Healthy Anger

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
“It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.”

And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.
(Luke 19:45-48)

Scripture Study

19:45 those who were selling things The vendors likely were selling animals designated for sacrifice. To be fit for sacrifice, an animal had to be free from illness and physical defect (e.g., Lev 1:3; Mal 1:8). Many people preferred to purchase the animal inside the temple courts—especially during pilgrimage festivals, when thousands of people were around.
19:46 a house of prayer The idea that foreigners would pray to Yahweh is found in Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple in 1 Kgs 8:41–43. The motif of Gentile nations coming to acknowledge Yahweh and worship Him alongside the people of Israel is found throughout Isaiah (see Isa 2:2–5; 19:19–25; 42:6; 49:6; 60:5). a den of thieves Alludes to the stealing. This phrase is used in the Gospels to highlight the injustice taking place in the temple (see Matt 21:13). Jesus quotes Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11.
19:47 scribes Refers to trained interpreters of the law of Moses. In Luke, they are sometimes linked with the Pharisees (e.g., 6:7; 11:53) and sometimes with the chief priests (e.g., 19:47; 20:19; 22:2). were seeking to put him to death Several factors likely contributed to the religious leaders’ desire to kill Jesus: They viewed Him as a messianic pretender and a blasphemer, they lost control of the masses due to His popularity, and they feared that civil unrest during the Passover festival would lead to violent reprisals from Rome.
19:48 all the people Fearing the response of the crowd, the religious leaders took no immediate action against Jesus.

Scripture Reflection

Today’s reading shows us two things about Jesus. The first was his ability to capture people when he spoke. Jesus spoke quietly and resolutely to those who gathered around him in temples, hillsides, and quiet upper rooms. But in his authority of love, they heard something new and different, as we do today when we read his words.

The second attribute was Jesus’ resentment at what he saw as disrespect occurring in God’s house. He denounces the traders for engaging in businesses that had nothing to do with divine worship. The traders did perform services necessary for religious worship, but this good was undone by their excessive desire for personal gain, turning the temple into a marketplace. Jesus tells them that “My house shall be a house of prayer.” He uses these words from Isaiah to underline the purpose of the temple. His behavior shows the respect the temple of Jerusalem deserved and the zeal he had for his Father’s glory to be recognized at this time in the temple itself.

How do these two attributes speak to us? The first attribute of Jesus’ zeal for the Father, as conveyed to us through his word, reminds us to hear and respond in kind to that word. If we are wise, we will hold on for dear life and pray that his words will continue to fill our lives. The second attribute of healthy anger must be seen in its opposite, “unhealthy” anger, to be fully understood.

Unhealthy anger is rooted in neurosis, personal frustration, jealousy, and ideology. Its object is more spite and destruction than construction. The anger of Jesus is healthy anger because its root is in genuine love for those it challenges. It challenges only because it profoundly loves those with whom it is angry and wants their happiness above its own. And it is in love that we should take these understandings to heart and action in our lives. 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV

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