John 2:13-22 OR righteous indignation sounds like a cop-out.
He's not angry! He's righteously indignant. After you have fun trying to say that a few times - now let me relieve your tongue - there is no need to call it that anymore. Jesus gets angry.
Why are we so scared to let Jesus be angry? I have to admit my own hesitance with it. When you read the Old Testament you find two attitudes that dont' jive well with my own understandings about what God should be like.
- God is angry. A lot. Like, all over the place. Prophets get angry for God. God brings fire and death on people for the smallest of transgressions. God doesn't forget any of Israel's sins - or any of the nations for that matter. In some cases, Israel runs through and pillages some poor country that just happened to be in the wrong place. Killing is par for the course. Better to kill all the women and children than have your blood line tainted with non-Jews. Anyway, I digress. Basically, God is angry often. It is a common trait.
- God makes "bad" things happen. A lot. Like, all over the place. See a connection with the first point? The writers of the Old Testament have no problem attributing disasters to God. Some things are not directly related to God's action/desires - some things are definitely humanity's fault. But as someone who feels God is good, I have issues with attributing painful and difficult occurances to God - simply because if a good God would make bad things happen, then they have to be good.
My experience is that Christians have a hard time accepting that God can be angry (which implies disaapointment) or purposely behind bad/evil things (which bakes your noodle figuring out what is good and evil.) Which doesn't matter much if you really kind of poo-poo the Old Testament as old hat - or have such faith in God that even bad things become good (Romans 8:28) but last I checked, Christianity comes out of Judaism, so we share the same stories. But lets update the issue a bit.
In John 2, we have a story of Jesus that throws up red flags for Christians and non-Christians alike. This passage seems to be proof that Jesus sinned - right? Because anger is a sin? Well...some think so. Even if its not sin - its obvious that Jesus is not happy. He's angry!
I've heard, as you have, that anger is bad. Some preachers work around this by saying that Jesus is in a state of 'righteous indignation'. This is not anger - because anger is wrong. And usually, it is wrong. Because its over petty things or is misused or leads to worse things. So this can't be anger - its righteous indignation. Other Christians will say that Jesus is sometimes God (transfiguration) and other times he's human (Father, why have you forsaken me?). So this moment in the temple is obviously one of Jesus weaker moments where his human nature gets the best of him. It isn't Jesus as God - that would never allow something like this to happen.
Sorry - thats a cop-out. You telling me Jesus isn't angry? Even if you ascribe to him his zeal against sin - this is no meek person turning over tables. Calling it righteous indignation is saying that somehow this is not something we can achieve, just Jesus because he's God and all. Like the OT.
When God shows in his wrath (and by wrath I mean somewhat violent reaction to evil) rather than praising God for a show of power, we are often apt to question God's authority. Like these folks in the temple - who are you to claim such authority here? We pray and pray and pray for God to show up - then when he does, are we happy with the results?
I really don't think there was an answer that would have been sufficient for them. This is one reason Jesus cuts off their line of thinking and simply says that the REAL temple, his body, could not be destroyed. Struck down for three days, yes. Killed, yes. But that is only a temporary problem for our God.
Jesus understands that behind their question of authority is actually a statement of threat. The Jews in the temple were sizing up their opponent before taking him down. I don't think they really cared what authority he claimed, unless it was something with teeth (like Roman authority). That answer would be a lie, and anything else would be dismissed.
My encouragement to you, this week, is to not shrink back from the anger sin causes our God. Rightly understood, the anger is not a disappointment - it is a statement of love. Death is tough. Its a fighter. Sin? Sticks like glue. Its as close to your being as the color of your skin or the liver proccessing the blood through your body. Sin is something you have to care about. Or to put it another way, your life is something you should care about. Think about your quickness to defend your children, or your husband, or your sister. Should you not defend yourself as well?
When you see things how God sees them, I believe you'd get angry too. And I'm not talking violent - as in lets go beat up these people we don't like - I mean what hurts God hurts you. And you'll see that there are many things we should be working to change in our world. There are promises we should claim - not for ourselves, but for those who can't claim God's promises.
And yes, I'm talking about the outcasts. I'm talking about the orphans. I'm talking about the hungry. I'm talking about anyone without a voice. We should get angry.
The one safe place every human being should have should be the church - the "dwelling place" of God. When we take that dwelling place and misuse it, we tread on dangerous ground.
And yeah, when I say, get angry, I'm not talking about punching someone. I'm talking about caring deeply.
Okay, okay. So Jesus might be righteously indignant - but that doesn't mean you can't be. Don't just try to push this off on Jesus. Claim it. Or its just a cop-out.
Oh, and don't forget - Jesus' answer is not a show of power, but a show of sacrifice (ultimately). Really might change what you do with your anger.