Monday, November 28, 2011

Mark 3:13 - Sovereignty

13  And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.  (Mark 3:13)

One verse.  Yes, one verse, but there's a lot in this one verse.  

"And he went up on the mountain"

You ever notice that a lot happens on mountains in the Bible?  Some commentators point out that there's a popular component to this suggesting important, "close-to-God" moments happen on mountains; because one is closer to Him there.  Or something like that.  I don't buy into that necessarily.  I mean, I know that I haven't actually been to Israel myself, but it's my understanding that mountains are fairly prevalent there.  Maybe getting away from the oppressive crowds (even away from people that are seeking to kill you) naturally leads you to go up on a mountain?  Or more likely it has to do with what Luke tells us in a parallel account of this (Luke 6:12), that He spent the night praying about what was to happen next.  He most likely sought a place of seclusion for this purpose.

"and called to him those whom he desired"
I'm not sure if what I have is a healthy or unhealthy skepticism of "experts" or "specialists". I have a great deal of respect for their years of effort and work that do tend to come with most academic or technical fields of study.  It's just that I think that an unquestioning belief can be the mark of a fool (Prov. 14:15).  Of course, I don't necessarily believe that I'm going to rival the level of expertise in any such area, but I do like to educate myself to a certain degree in just about anything in which I could possibly exert any kind of authority or influence over someone else.
All of that to say that I know that I have a great deal to learn yet about New Testament Greek, but I do think it is prudent to dig into it in as much as God grants me grace when studying His Word.  I want to understand what the author meant when he chose that word to express that thought/concept.  For instance, how was that same word/phrase used by other authors, both with in Scripture and with out?
and (καὶ) calls on (προσκαλεῖται) whom (οὓς) he wants (ἤθελεν αὐτός)
I spent a good deal of time trying to understand how προσκαλεῖται is used in the Bible.  I have a greater appreciation for those that can grasp the nuances of the Greek language, the tenses and voices, the grammar on a whole... it's not nearly as easy as one might think at first glance.  I have a greater thirst now for learning it in more detail.

First, it seems perhaps obvious to others, but this verse doesn't say that the "called" were just the twelve. Surely, the twelve were appointed from within these, but nothing in this  suggests that only the twelve were called to come up on the mountain.  We assume it was just them, but as of right now, I am unable to find anything to support that assumption.  Second, Mark is making it quite clear that Jesus chose those whom He desired.  Those that were called did not choose in themselves to go, but they were chosen (John 15:16).

Aside:  How much does it play into all of this that they were even there to be called?  I mean, presumably they were still following Jesus for one reason or another... they hadn't rejected what He was teaching and returned home, right?  I think it should be said that it is so easy to make an implicit deduction in these kinds of passages that really plays on a part of our sin nature to take credit for our "coming to Christ".  The reason I say it's an implicit deduction is because Scripture is explicit about our inability to effect any part of our conversion, that it is entirely of God, in other places (Jonah 2:9; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29).  We all too often want to form the context of the situation into a part of the narrative, providing us with a sub-plot that at the very least supports a cooperative effort in the work of converting a cold, dead heart into a living, feeling heart.  We will fight tooth and nail to crack open the possibility that we contributed something - contrary to everything God's Word tells us.

Note, Jesus didn't advertise "an altar call", He didn't take a vote, and He did not make it a contest whereby the fittest (oh, let's say, the first up the mountain) might earn "a spot on the team".  This would negate grace, if any part of it was dependent on performance. 

A well-known theologian has posited the following question:
"Why did I choose to believe the gospel and commit my life to Christ when my neighbor, who heard the same gospel, chose to reject it?"
I challenge you to meditate on that question for some time.  

I wonder if any of the disciples that were not called up on the mountain later asked themselves a similar question.  If so, it might have been much easier to answer them at the time: "because He didn't call you to come up there on that mountain".  What about the 12 that were called?  Did they think they were called because of something they had accomplished, or said, or thought?  Later, when Jesus told them, "You did not choose Me but I chose you", do you suppose they thought, "well, yeah, but I had to choose to follow... I could have said 'no'"?

Is this too far off from contemporary evangelical thinking?  If asked the above question about why they chose to believe the gospel, but their neighbor rejected Christ, your average Christian would probably answer that they decided to follow, or that they made the right choice - logically suggesting that the someone that had rejected Him made the wrong choice.  Really?  Then congratulations are due you.  In some small way, this would lead one to expect that someday God should applaud their decision, their right choice... and then, in regard to their salvation, it isn't ALL of the glory to Christ... just MOST OF IT!  Some small part of it is mine... I mean, I could have said, "no".  That is the logical end of that position.

This is a generally difficult concept to fully accept.  It is SO contrary to what we're taught. Especially here in America, in the land of the free, where everyone has their rights, and no one is compelled to do anything against their own will.  Right?  

I mean, just to get a little on the silly side, I have to admit that I only obey the law of gravity because I want to... because it's just easier this way.  I could choose to ignore it at any time.  And don't even get me started on linear time, I only obey it because it would be hard to maintain steady relationships otherwise, but if I wanted to I could choose to live in a timeless dimension.  If I wanted to... I just don't want to right now.  Silly, right?  

These are concepts that we accept as being ubiquitous, unavoidable, universal constants. We do not argue with them, we exist and respond within their constraints.  Admittedly, on a purely conceptual level, our freedom is limited by them, but while we may have literature and art that fantasizes outside of these constraints, we must live every moment of our real lives firmly within their grasp.  Why then is this concept, that the Good and Sovereign Lord of all Creation has created all men within certain constraints, so hard to grasp?  There is so much freedom (and responsibility) within these bounds, and we're perfectly fine with it until someone phrases it in a way that seems to limit our perception of free will.

Whoa!  I'm really getting off on a tangent here, aren't I?  Suffice it to say that Jesus sovereignly called them out from the larger group of followers and they obeyed His call.

"and they came to him."
and (καὶ) they went forth (ἀπῆλθον) to (πρὸς) him (αὐτόν)

It doesn't say they formed a committee to discuss the pros and cons of going.  There isn't even mention that one paused to think about it.  They just "went forth to him".  Their Lord summoned, and they came.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:37-39)
Theologians have given it a name: irresistible grace.  John Piper explains it here:
“This is what we mean when we use terms like sovereign grace or irresistible grace. We mean that the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, and therefore he is omnipotent and sovereign. And therefore, he is irresistible and infallibly effective in his regenerating work. Which doesn’t mean that we don’t resist him. We do. The Bible is plain about that (Acts 7:51). What the sovereignty of grace and the sovereignty of the Spirit mean is that when God chooses, he can overcome the rebellion and resistance of our wills. He can make Christ look so compelling that our resistance is broken and we freely come to him and receive him and believe him.”
At this point one can start arguments about the extremes of doctrines taken and twisted by people seeking to justify their own sin and desires.  On one hand you get those that confuse the doctrines of grace with license to sin ("if it is all predetermined, then why do I need to worry about it?") and to the other side of tearing it down into logical fallacies about every part must be just like the whole.  The point being that when we lose sight of what it is that Scripture says, and start trying to overlay a human perspective to these deeper issues, it is easy to get off track.  It's not by accident either - the enemy loves nothing more than to confuse and distract believers with these kinds of things.

This post is being published on Thanksgiving day of 2011.  Therefore, I'd like to suggest that instead of focusing at this time on why exactly the disciples responded as they did, that we instead just meditate on that very grace and love of the Father that called us and allowed us to respond to Him.  This should humble us and also draw us ever closer to Him. If I really grasp what it means to have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world then it is really difficult to escape the conclusion that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe must have plans for me.  Just as Jesus has plans for these 12 men, so too does He have plans for me and you.  

Give THANKS this day and every day for this amazing truth!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

proskaleomai - summoned

Mark 3:13 -  προσκαλεῖται 
Matthew 10:1προσκαλεσάμενος
Mark 6:7προσκαλεῖται 

proskaleomai  (pros-kal-eh'-om-ahee) : To call on, or to; to address. [NASB translates as "summoned"]

Gen 28:1
"Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and directed him, "You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women."

Ex 3:18
And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, 'The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.' 

Ex 5:3
Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword." 

1Sa 26:14
And David called to the army, and to Abner the son of Ner, saying, "Will you not answer, Abner?" Then Abner answered, "Who are you who calls to the king?" 

Est 4:5
Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. 

Est 8:1
On that day King Ahasuerus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what he was to her. 

Ps 50:4
He [God] calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: 

Pr 9:15
[Folly] calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, 

Jl 2:32
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls

Am 5:8
He who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name; 

Am 9:6
who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth-- the LORD is his name. 


Mt 10:1
And he called (προσκαλεσάμενος) to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

Mt 15:10
And he called (προσκαλεσάμενος) the people to him and said to them, "Hear and understand:

Mat 15:32
Then Jesus called (προσκαλεσάμενος) his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way."

Mt 18:2 - [(proskalesamenos). Indirect middle voice aorist participle]
And calling (προσκαλεσάμενος) to him a child, he put him in the midst of them

Mt 18:32
Then his master summoned (προσκαλεσάμενος) him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.

Mt 20:25 - [(proskalesamenos autous). Indirect middle again, calling to him]
But Jesus called (προσκαλεσάμενος) them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
Mk 3:13 - [(proskaleitai), historical middle present indicative]
And he went up on the mountain and called (προσκαλεῖται) to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.

Mk 3:23
And he called (προσκαλεσάμενος) them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan?

Mk 6:7
And he called (προσκαλεῖται) the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.

Mk 7:14 - [(proskalesamenos) Aorist middle participle, calling to himself]
And he called (προσκαλεσάμενος) the people to him again and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand:

Mk 8:1
In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called (προσκαλεσάμενος) his disciples to him and said to them,

Mk 8:34 - [proskalesamenos]
And calling (προσκαλεσάμενος) the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Mk 10:42
And Jesus called (προσκαλεσάμενος) them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.

Mk 12:43 - [(proskalesamenos). Indirect middle voice]
And he called (προσκαλεσάμενος) his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.

Mk 15:44
Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning (προσκαλεσάμενος) the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.
Lk 7:19 - [(proskalesamenos). First aorist middle (indirect) participle]
calling (προσκαλεσάμενος) two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?"

Lk 15:26
And he called (προσκαλεσάμενος) one of the servants and asked what these things meant.

Lk 16:5
So, summoning (προσκαλεσάμενος) his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?'

Lk 18:16 - [(prosekalesato). Indirect middle aorist indicative]
But Jesus called (προσεκαλεσάμενος) them to him, saying, "Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Act 2:39 - [an proskalesētai). First aorist middle subjunctive with an in an indefinite relative clause, a perfectly regular construction]
For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls (προσκαλέσηται) to himself."

Act 5:40
and when they had called (προσκαλεσάμενοι) in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

Act 6:2
And the twelve summoned (προσκαλεσάμενοι) the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.

Act 13:2
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called (προσκέκλημαι) them."

Act 13:7
He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned (προσκαλεσάμενος) Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.

Act 16:10
And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called (προσκέκληται) us to preach the gospel to them.

Act 20:1
After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for (προσκαλεσάμενος) the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia.

Act 23:17 - [(proskalesamenos). First aorist participle indirect middle, calling to himself.]
Paul called (προσκαλεσάμενος) one of the centurions and said, "Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to tell him."

Act 23:18
So he took him and brought him to the tribune and said, "Paul the prisoner called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, as he has something to say to you."

Act 23:23
Then he called two of the centurions and said, "Get ready two hundred soldiers, with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen to go as far as Caesarea at the third hour of the night.
Js 5:14
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mark 3:7-12

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea

and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him.

And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him,

for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him.

And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God."

And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. (Mark 3:7-12)

A few things pique my interest here: 
  1. Where are all of these places at relative to where Jesus is in this passage?
  2. Jesus hasn't named the 12 disciples yet, so who exactly is Mark talking about here?    
  3. Why does Jesus keep telling the "unclean spirits" to keep quiet?  
  4. How is the situation with the pressing crowd a lesson to the church today?

From what locations are the people coming?

Until now, those coming to hear Jesus, who is in Capernaum (Mark 2:1), were from a relatively local geographic area, presumably in and near to Capernaum (Galilee), maybe with the exception of some of the scribes and Pharisees who probably came up from Jerusalem.  Now we see that people from beyond that local area are traveling to Him, but it seems only to receive the physical healing of which they had undoubtedly heard.  

They're following from Galilee, and coming in from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and from Tyre and Sidon.  The map here shows that basically all of Palestine is aware of Jesus and what He's doing. Mark obviously puts this in here to show that His ministry has grown beyond a local phenomenon to a far-reaching one.

It's also not a coincidence that Jesus and his disciples are "withdrawing"... people are plotting to kill Him!  For His protection, they just need to get away.  It makes sense for his disciples protection too; common sense would say that if they want to kill Jesus, they will probably not just let His closest followers go unharmed.  Not to mention that Jesus knows that it's not time for Him to be arrested and killed.

Who are His disciples?

So, now who are these that Mark calls "His disciples"?  In just the next few verses (vv. 16-19), Jesus names the 12 that He will call His Apostles.  However, the way this is written suggests that the 12 are called out from a greater number of disciples; otherwise, if it was just the 12 all along, why would Jesus need to call "to Him those whom He desired"?  The word in the Greek, μαθητῶν, is from μαθητής, which can be read "learner" or "pupil".  I don't get the feeling that these are the ones there just for the healing and "the show".  Just because someone was attending where Jesus was speaking didn't make them a disciple.  For instance, the scribes and Pharisees were often present but not in the category of "pupils".  Apparently, there is a rather steady attendance of people intent on learning from Jesus, that could most probably refer to themselves as a student of the Teacher, for the time being anyway.

What's with the unclean spirits?

I looked at the "unclean spirits" in a previous posting.  In that instance, He simply told the demon to "be quiet".  However, I didn't really look at why exactly Jesus is commanding the demons to remain silent... this time we understand that it's specifically about His identity.  

And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. (v.12)

Why is Jesus ordering them to not make known His identity?  I'm drawing a connection to a scene we read about in Acts 16.

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.
She followed Paul and us, crying out, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation."
And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.  (Acts 16:16-18)

It would seem that Paul did not wish for the people of that city, who were quite familiar with the girl and her services, to associate them together.  Just as the demons were correct in identifying Jesus as the Son of God, this girl was speaking the truth.  But why, if it's the truth, does he command silence?

Matthew Henry comments, "Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel, who are confounded with them by careless observers."

Jesus tells us that Satan does not work against himself (Matthew 12:25-28; Mark 3:23-26).  Satan's kingdom would not stand if he was working against his own interests.  So there must be a benefit to him for the demons to be making these remarks identifying Jesus as the Son of God.  But what is it?  Perhaps I'm thinking about it too much, and it's just a reflex in a moment of terror (James 2:19).  No, I think it's not just me.  There's something about not wanting the demons connected to the gospel, to what Jesus is doing.  "Consider the source" is a comment people make when they hear a bit of news.  The reputation of the source does bear on the authenticity of the message - that's just the way it is.  I have to think there's some of that in what we read in verse 12.


First, and briefly, applying verse 12 to today: there are SO many false teachers today.  For instance, many of the "preachers" one can watch on TV... not trying to paint with a broad brush here, but there's a lot of ear tickling happening on TBN.  People may defend it by saying that something of the gospel can be picked up there, but "consider the source" is still applicable.  Jesus didn't ask people to wade through the muck to find the truth.  If I told you that there's a toilet in my house that serves pure, ice cold, lemonade - it's no longer connected to the city sewage line - would you drink from it?  Right.  You would consider the source.

Second, the situation with the "pressing crowd" from verses 9 & 10.  What lesson(s) are there for the church today?  We can understand that Jesus did not want the physical benefits (healing here, casting out demons there, later we see spontaneous generation of food) to become the apparent core of His ministry.  In that day of practically zero medical care, the healing that He gave to people was (and is to this day) absolutely miraculous.  It's not hard to understand why people would travel great distances to get in on it.  (Sadly, we still see crowds of people today seeking the same thing in "empty cisterns".)  

Yet, Jesus still was gracious enough to give the people the healing they sought.  Why?  We've already read that He could read the thoughts of men, so He had to know that they had little interest in what He was teaching, or in worshiping Him.  Yeah, yeah... then why?  I really think it's just because He is Who He is.  He loves them.  He loves us.

But don't miss, however, that Jesus took the necessary precautions.  He knew what the people were really coming for, and He prepared for it.  He did see the inherent danger, the logistical complications, the potential for someone to get hurt - so He planned for it and still graciously healed the sick, and cast out the demons.  He found the balance.  As the Sovereign Lord of all creation, there is an endless list of things we could imagine Him doing to manage this situation, but instead we see Him using good ol' common sense, using His brain, rolling up His sleeves, and serving those people.

What does this mean for the local church?  I think it means that we have to find the balance.  Some of us like to run as far away from that line - that line that we have to walk between proclaiming the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the temptation to fall into a "social gospel"... meeting the physical needs (yes, those are important) but neglecting the greater spiritual needs.  Like so many things, there are ditches on either side into which we can easily fall.  Either we hide behind a theological textbook, hoping it's enough to shield us from having to get our hands dirty, or we run to the other extreme and burn the creeds and doctrinal literature as fuel on the fire to wipe financial poverty and physical hunger from the face of the globe, failing to satiate the far greater spiritual poverty at the same time.

We have to ask ourselves... are we taking our cues from Our Lord?  Are we protecting ourselves from what can become a crushing crowd of demand for physical needs?  Some may criticize that it's selfish to take such a calloused approach, arguing that sacrificing some security for a fellow man in need is "Christ-like", but we see that Christ didn't let Himself get trampled for the sake of some physical needs.  He knew what He was really here for, and it wasn't to be crushed by a horde of people seeking to touch Him.

Balance.  I think that's one application I find in this passage.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mark 3:1-6

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.

And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him.

And he said to the man with the withered hand, "Come here."

And he said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent.

And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him. (Mark 3:1-6 ESV)

Continuing from the end of Chapter 2, we read here at the beginning of the third, that the Pharisees are still offended about the apparent disregard for their man-made rules regarding the Sabbath. However, this time it isn't by Jesus' disciples that they're offended, it's Jesus, Himself.

Since I've explored the ideas surrounding the basis of the Pharisaical accusations against Our Lord and His disciples, and His response about His being the Lord of the Sabbath, this time I want to focus on Jesus' anger in verse 5, and then in verse 6 - how the Pharisees reacted.

Analyzing the context, the text shows that Jesus called this man to Him. (Could this be an allusion to 'election'?) This man didn't approach Jesus, pleading for healing, instead the man is chosen by Our Lord. Jesus is creating the context for conflict. I find that interesting. There is nothing here to necessarily suggest that He contrived the circumstances, but He isn't avoiding them either. Of course, His motives are pure - He wants to heal this man, and there is no violation of God's law in healing on the Sabbath, though that will be the accusation. The Sabbath was created for man... a blessing from God. Healing is a blessing - there is no incongruity here. But, let's go back to the fact that He knows His actions will result in conflict, and yet He doesn't avoid it. He is confident in the righteousness of His actions, His motives are pure and He is seeking that God would be glorified. He is not belittling or passive-aggressive toward the Pharisees. He simply pauses to ask, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?" Of course, there is only one right answer here (and doing nothing is doing harm). Their silence betrays their heart. They are not interested in whether their Sabbath activities are doing good or doing harm, their only motives are selfish: self-righteousness and self-aggrandizement.

Jesus was angry

"And he looked around at them with anger..."

There's a popular teaching today that allowing the actions of another to anger you is allowing them to control you. I guess this is supposed to be an appeal to our desire to be in control, attempting to give us a motive to not be angry. Is that what is happening here? Is Jesus allowing the Pharisees to control Him? Is that the cause of His anger? Is "allowing them to control you" even a biblical understanding of anger?

A quick overview of anger. There are different kinds, and the Greek language expresses these in three words: thumos, orge, and parorgismos.
  1. Thumos is an sudden, explosive outburst; a wild, mindless rage - think of a boiling volcanic eruption.
  2. Orge is longer lasting than thumos; it is a deliberate, measured, intense reaction directed toward perceived evil.
  3. Parorgismos is a bitterness to the root of your heart; a pent-up festering anger that feeds hostility in all that we do.
Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us, "Be angry (orge - οργίζεσθε) and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (parorgismos - παροργισμω), and give no opportunity to the devil."

James 1:19-20 tells us, "let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger (orge - οργήν); for the anger (orge - οργη) of man does not produce the righteousness of God."

Scripture does not advocate a stoic approach to emotions. We are not to ignore or suppress the feelings we have, but we are to maintain control of them, expressing them in moderation and in the right context and motive. One of the characteristics of God is His wrath, and being made in His image, we are also capable of wrath. However, sin having corrupted and twisted that image means we usually misuse and abuse that which was meant for good. As the grace of God sanctifies believers, it becomes necessary not only that we can express anger, but that we must express anger toward that which defies God's will and seeks to destroy us and others - namely, sin.

John Gill, in his Exposition of the New Testament says, "a man may be said to be angry and not sin, when his anger arises from a true zeal for God and religion; when it is kindled not against persons, but sins; when a man is displeased with his own sins, and with the sins of others: with vice and immorality of every kind; with idolatry and idolatrous worship, and with all false doctrine".

There is a general condemnation of all kinds of anger today - in secular culture and in the "church". It is regarded as the recourse of the uncivilized and immature, with the preferred course of action being "love and understanding". To be sure, uncontrolled and violent anger is to be condemned and avoided, but there are instances where a righteous man must be angry. The abuse and exploitation of others should kindle anger. Righteous anger should fuel controlled confrontation in these instances. God is angry with sin. He does not "love and understand" it. God will confront unrepentant sinners on Judgement Day. We should be confronting sin every day. We should be in conflict with sin every day. And that confrontation needs to start with our own heart - just as Jesus directed His anger at the sin in their hearts.

And He was grieved

"...grieved at their hardness of heart"

It should be obvious that Jesus' anger is directed at their sin, at their hard hearts that were not interested in the well-being of another man, but protecting their own rules and religion. It is important to see that He was also grieved at their sin. He was grieved that they were unable to see by His words and actions that He is the Son of God. Even today, He is grieved when He sees the lack of conflict in our hearts over sin.

How to destroy Him

"The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him."

Like these Pharisees, we can become comfortable and "understanding" of the sin in our own hearts, and seek to assuage our guilt by seeking our own righteousness, following rules and performing religious rituals, defending ourselves by the traditions in which we were raised. If fact, in that natural, un-redeemed state, we can become so bent on earning our righteousness, on paying back our own debt, that we have only one option when confronted by Jesus, confronted by His grace: to react like the Pharisees did. In short, we seek to get rid of Him.

That seems extreme, right? But it's not so different from what happens still today. The popular culture is still seeking "how to destroy him". The world system tells us that the God's Word is archaic and closed-minded, and those that believe it are old-fashioned, out of touch, and chauvinistic. We are taught to embrace other religions and cultural beliefs, and in doing so we will be open-minded and loving. In contrast, claiming anything to be objectively right or wrong is "judgmental and bigoted". Instead, our culture calls that which God calls evil - good, and that which God calls good - evil.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)

You see, I am encouraged by this world to "find myself", define my own truth, create my own definition of good/evil through a self-made, relativistic worldview, ultimately becoming so entangled in a hodgepodge of inconsistent, twisted, pagan beliefs that I couldn't forsake them if I wanted to without forsaking my very identity.

It's not so unlike the culture in which Jesus lived in 1st century Israel. Jewish culture had assimilated so much from the pagan peoples around them, along with so many extra-biblical religious rules, that it was a very intricate and complicated system of beliefs. And those that identified themselves to the very core of that culture would not/could not abandon it easily, even when God was living among them and showing them "the Way, the Truth, and the Life".

Abandoning our elaborately built monuments to ourselves is a monstrous hit to our pride. Knowing Jesus and that He is God really is humbling. It really does mean losing your life to follow Him. This is where so many, inside and outside the church, stumble: moving past adorning their idol with a Jesus ornament, to tearing down the idol and putting Christ in its place.

Before submitting my life to Him, I have to admit that I was like these Pharisees, especially like the one spoken of in Luke 18:11-12.

The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'

No, I didn't fast twice a week nor give tithes of all that I earned. But I was very proud of myself and my morality. I thought I was a pretty good kid. I hadn't robbed anyone or killed anyone. I went to church most weekends. I associated myself with other 'good people'. And if you had asked me whether I'd go to heaven when I died and why, I would have said, "Yes" and offered some answer about being a generally good person and that I'd asked Jesus into my heart as a 9-year-old. That sounds pretty good, right? It's pretty much what that Pharisee was saying (except for the "ask Jesus into my heart" stuff, for obvious reasons) - he'd done everything that he was told to do as a child and had grown up to be a relatively moral citizen, observing all of the religious duties with a healthy dose of "pat-myself-on-the-back-for-being-a-good-boy". Yep, that was me. And if you pressed me, I would tell you I didn't quite believe that the thief on the cross was going to end up in the same place I was going to end up.

Which bring us back to Jesus looking at them with anger, grieved at the hardening of their hearts. I have no doubt that Jesus looked at my heart all those years and was angered at the hardness of it, but also grieved that I kept turning Him away so that I didn't have to humble myself, and admit that I couldn't do any of it myself, not even a little bit.

Is Jesus looking at my heart with anger and grieving over unrepentant sin? Is there still a part of me to be seen in those Pharisees? Those men that would sooner seek to destroy God than give up their familiar, socially acceptable way of life that was actually killing them?

Let us examine our hearts and discover the parts that grieve our Lord and Savior, and repent of them quickly though painful as it may be.