The wrath of God

Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shrivelled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shrivelled hand, 'Stand up in front of everyone.'

Then Jesus asked them, 'Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?' But they remained silent.

He looked round at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. (Mar 3:1–6)

The Pharisees were becoming increasingly concerned about our Lord's popularity with the people and were looking for ways to discredit him. In the previous chapter they had accused the disciples of working on the Sabbath; they now hoped to accuse Jesus of the same.

Luke's Gospel tells us that our Lord knew what they were thinking (Luk 6:8) and asked the man with the shrivelled hand to stand up in front of them. Before he healed him he asked them whether it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil, to save life or to kill, but they refused to answer.

Jesus looked at them in anger. The Greek word (orge) describes a rational calculated anger, rather than an emotional anger. That means that Jesus had a legitimate reason to be angry. Mark adds that he was 'deeply distressed' (grieving and sorrowful in his spirit) because of their stubborn refusal to acknowledge the truth.

Jesus the image of God

At this point we should remind ourselves of some of the facts the Bible teaches about Jesus:

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being. (Heb 1:3)

No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father's side, has made him known. (Joh 1:18)

'I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.' (Joh 5:19)

'For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.' (Joh 12:49)

From these statements we can see that during our Lord's ministry on earth, every action, every deed, every word, every rebuke, every sigh, every tear came from the Father. That is why when Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father,' Jesus answered:

'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.' (Joh 14:8–9)

Jesus was the exact representation of the Father in a human body. Jesus was looking at the Pharisees in anger because the Father was looking at the Pharisees in anger.

A popular image of God is of a distant, fatherly figure looking down from heaven with a gentle smile on his face, occasionally tut-tutting when he sees something he doesn't approve of. How far from the truth can that be!

God's wrath

One of the most popular verses in the Bible is Joh 3:16. Most Christians can quote it from memory and it's frequently used in evangelism:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

That is a beautiful truth, but it's only one truth from the Bible. How many Christians can quote Joh 3:36 from memory? The same Bible; the same Gospel; the same chapter; just twenty verses further on.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him.

The verse tells us that if someone rejects Jesus, God's wrath remains on the person, which means that his wrath was on the person before they rejected him.

The truth is that everyone on earth is under God's wrath (his extreme anger) because of their sin; it's only as we turn to Christ that his wrath is removed from us.

Rom 8:1 declares:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ are no longer under condemnation. The word 'condemned' in the Bible means to be sentenced adversely; to be damned (doomed to eternal torment). This is the hell Jesus spoke about in Mar 9:47–48 and from which he came to save us.

In our zeal to get people saved we sometimes try to present God to the world as attractively as we can in the hope that people might desire him and turn to him. But God doesn't need to be made acceptable to man, it's man who needs to be made acceptable to God. And God has made that possible through the sacrifice of his Son.

Salvation through Christ

One of the terms used to describe God's wrath in the Bible is 'the cup of God's wrath' (Rev 14:9–10). What did our Lord pray in the garden before his crucifixion?

'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' (Mat 26:39)

And again:

'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.' (Mat 26:42)

Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath on the cross for you and for me so that we won't have to drink it.

1Th 5:9 states:

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation [Greek: to be rescued, delivered] through Jesus Christ.

As he hung on the cross Jesus suffered the wrath of God for our sins so he could save us, rescue us, and deliver us from that wrath.

Sorrow and pain

At the beginning of the study we saw that Jesus was not only angry with the Pharisees, but also 'deeply distressed' at their stubborn hearts (Mar 3:5). The Greek word used indicates feelings of sorrow, grief and pain. That God feels sorrow and pain because of man's sin is revealed in Gen 6:5–6:

The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.

God is angry with the world because of its sin but, at the same time, it grieves his heart to see it. Because he loves the world so much he sent his Son to die for its sin. It's only when we refuse to accept his offer of salvation that his wrath remains on us.

Eze 18:23 sums up his feelings in this matter:

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

Jesus healed a man with a shrivelled hand right in front of everyone's eyes. Matthew tells us that his hand was completely restored, just as sound as the other (Mat 12:13); but the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. That was an incredible reaction from people who had just witnessed an outstanding miracle.

Michael Graham
February 2003

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

guide | home | next