As ancient Israel settled into the land, built a temple, and cities grew, the need of city dwellers to buy animals for the required sacrifices had become a sizable industry. If you live by the Old Testament law and live in a city, where do you get a lamb for Passover? If you sinned or needed to make some other offering, where would you get the doves or lamb or goat to sacrifice?
The Levites were the priestly tribe, but there were a limited number of jobs to do around the temple, so as their numbers grew and more people began living in cities, the Levites started raising animals for the sacrifices for city dwellers, especially around Bethlehem which had large pastures. It was no doubt to those Levite shepherds the angels appeared when Jesus was born, in keeping with the lines of authority, announcing first to the priesthood that the final sacrificial Lamb had been born in town.
As city dwellers came to the temple there were markets selling the animals required for sacrifice, as well as 'money changers', mentioned in John 2: 13-19 and Matthew 21: 11-13. This is the group Jesus attacked by overturning their tables and making whips of cords to drive them all out, saying, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer. But you have made it a den of thieves.'"
Exodus 30: 11-16 required a 'temple tax' of a half-shekel, which people paid when they came to make a sacrifice. But the gospels tell us this was Passover, so Jews were coming from all over the Roman Empire, which meant they used currency (coin) that had the images of pagan gods or goddesses on them, which was not acceptable. So they would exchange their pagan currency for the Jewish half-shekel.
The money changers and sellers of animals charged exorbitant prices to the city dwellers and visitors coming to the city for Passover, which is what Jesus was angry with - extorting people who were trapped because they had to make sacrifices to be righteous before God. The money changers were taking advantage of their situation.
Justified anger isn't emotional reasoning - nor is it a sin
Jesus was justified in his anger because it was not right that extortion was taking place, and that on temple grounds. Instead of the temple area being for people to pray and focus on God, they had opened a coffee shop...er, sorry, opened a market place in the lobby, and one that charged exorbitant prices, taking advantage of those who had come to worship and offer sacrifices to God. :)
If you or I see an unjust situation and we get angry, it may very well be righteous anger. But in this day and age the lines between anger based on eternal principles of right and wrong have been replaced with anger based on 'because I feel like it'.
A friendship ended because the one friend would not excuse nor condone the adultery of her friend. She justified her affair with the married man because his marriage was failing, he was planning he said on filing for divorce, he was not happy. She and their affair had made him and her very happy, so in her thinking, being the adulterous was a God-made way of escape for him from his unhappy marriage.
When her friend called it what it was, adultery, and expressed anger and shock at her friend's justifications, the friend stormed out and ended all contact. The adulterer was using emotional reasoning, angry at her friend who stood on principles of right and wrong, She justified her adultery based on how she felt, and telling herself it was God leading her to do so.
Layers of hardness of heart
Another situation when Jesus got angry happened in Mark 3: 1-5, concerning the healing of the man with the withered arm. He had asked the religious leaders if it was right to do good on the Sabbath, but they refused to answer Him.
The text tells us "Jesus looked round about them, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts". The Greek root 'poroo' is used to describe their hardness of heart. In common use it was a construction term, used to describe the layers of whitewash or mortar one applied to a wall. First application, then let it dry. Then a second application, then let it dry. The term was also used to describe a callous, which is a layering of blistered skin until it becomes hard.
Jesus was angry with those who exhibited such a process in their thoughts and lives. They knew what the right answer was - yes, it is right to do good on the Sabbath - but they didn't want to deal with the unrighteousness of their thoughts and emotional reasoning, so they stayed silent. To respond righteously they would have had to deal with the layers of hardness they had built up - and that was too much work. They would have to admit and expose deeper layers of hardening and wrong emotions and wrong reasoning - and they didn't want to do that.
Jesus did what was right anyway, and healed the man, patterning an example for us to always do right now matter how others receive it. As John 3: 20 says; 'Everyone who does evil hates the light, neither will they come to the light, because their deeds would be exposed.'
The take away today is that we should examine ourselves to see if our anger is justified (righteous) anger, or not. Is our anger based on emotion because under that knee-jerk reaction is illogical thinking and issues we protect by being angry at anyone who approaches?
Or is it something simple like kicking the dog when you get home because you're angry with someone at work? Are you angry with someone else but take it out on your kids? Do you get angry just because you feel like it, or are you willing to examine your heart to see what the real issues are?
More next week...until then, blessings,
www.cwowi.org and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org