There’s a curious but pivotal scripture that “gentle Jesus, meek and mild” Christians tend to skip because it doesn’t fit their image of Jesus. You know the one I mean – where a hungry Jesus curses a fig tree to death and then goes on a hangry rampage in the temple, overturning tables and whipping the moneychangers for violating God’s law.
Ya gotta admit – when Jesus does hangry, he does it memorably. Most of us when we’re hangry just snap at people and then head to the corner store for a candy bar or a bag of Doritos, but Jesus let it all out. And when he did, he did it with such impact and such righteousness that we’re still talking about it today.
I can imagine that Jesus had been holding back his anger (and his hanger) for some time before finally letting loose on the tree and the moneychangers. Does that mean that Jesus was wrong in doing what he did?
Absolutely not. During his time on Earth, Jesus followed God’s way as his way, and God, as we know, is seemingly infinitely patient until he isn’t, and then all Hell breaks loose.
Some of us have experienced the same thing in our lives as Christians, or at least we should have by now. We are patient, we are tolerant, we overlook, we compensate—just like God does for us—and then one day someone or something pushes the right button, and off we go on a rampage, whether a fig tree is within cursing range or not.
Everyone has limits. Everyone has their own individual line in the sand. When that line is crossed one or two or a thousand times too many, we have a God-given right to PUT THINGS RIGHT. Jesus was doing nothing in the temple but PUTTING THINGS RIGHT that looking the other way, gentle reminders, and pointed stares had not corrected.
There is a time for looking the other way and for gentle reminders and for pointed stares, and there is a time for overturning tables, whipping moneychangers, and cursing fig trees. God knows the difference, Jesus knew the difference, and we must also know the difference. If we don’t know the difference, we must learn the difference NOW, because the time has almost come when looking the other way, gentle reminders, and pointed stares just won’t cut it anymore, and we will have to know when and where to overturn the tables and curse the fig trees without remorse and without hesitation.
I love that Jesus got hangry and that his hanger was recorded in scripture. I love that he attacked the moneychangers and told them why he was attacking them. All through scripture, we see God’s prophets warning and warning and warning God’s people to turn from their evil ways or face God’s wrath, and when they don’t turn, God lets loose on them, even while telling them point blank why he’s doing it. We know from scripture that Jesus had warned the religious elite over and over and over again about their hypocrisy, about their countless violations of God’s laws in favour of man’s laws, but they had ignored his warnings and even mocked him. So when hangry Jesus shows up in the temple like a cleansing fire, he shows up as the fulfillment of his warnings as well as the fulfillment of scripture:
“And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple”
I am not advising you to go postal on the next person you see jaywalking. There is a time and a place for letting it all out. But when God gives you the cue, don’t hesitate and don’t shrink from the duty of expressing God’s righteous anger, because a duty it is and part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. You can love your enemies even as you upbraid them. Just remember, as the “hangry” scripture points out, to always choose to forgive. Then your anger will be God’s righteousness working through you, not a sugar imbalance getting the better of you.
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’[a]? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’[b]”
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples[c] went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly[d] I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”