When Jesus Gets Mad

The first part of Mark 3 is one of my favorite passages in the Gospels.

Mark 3:1–6

Καὶ εἰσῆλθεν πάλιν εἰς τὴν συναγωγήν. καὶ ἦν ἐκεῖ ἄνθρωπος ἐξηραμμένην ἔχων τὴν χεῖρα. καὶ παρετήρουν αὐτὸν εἰ τοῖς σάββασιν θεραπεύσει αὐτόν, ἵνα κατηγορήσωσιν αὐτοῦ.He entered again into the synagogue, and there was a man with a crippled hand there. They were watching Jesus to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath so that they might bring charges against him.
καὶ λέγει τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τῷ τὴν ξηρὰν χεῖρα ἔχοντι· ἔγειρε εἰς τὸ μέσον. καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· ἔξεστιν τοῖς σάββασιν ἀγαθὸν ποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι, ψυχὴν σῶσαι ἢ ἀποκτεῖναι; οἱ δὲ ἐσιώπων.Jesus said to the man who had the crippled hand, “Stand in the middle of us.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to take one?” And they were silent.
καὶ περιβλεψάμενος αὐτοὺς μετ᾿ ὀργῆς, συλλυπούμενος ἐπὶ τῇ πωρώσει τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν λέγει τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ· ἔκτεινον τὴν χεῖρα. καὶ ἐξέτεινεν καὶ ἀπεκατεστάθη ἡ χεὶρ αὐτοῦ.When he had looked around at them with anger and was frustrated at the hardness of their hearts, he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” And he was holding out his hand, and it was like new!
Καὶ ἐξελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι εὐθὺς μετὰ τῶν Ἡρῳδιανῶν συμβούλιον ἐδίδουν κατ᾿ αὐτοῦ ὅπως αὐτὸν ἀπολέσωσιν.When the Pharisees left, they immediately, with the Herodians, put together a plan against Jesus in order that they might eliminate him.

Two Subordinate Clauses

The religious leaders think they have him. What’s he going to do? Jesus leans in and speaks directly to the issue, but they won’t say a word. The tension is thick. There are versions of the same story in Matt 12:9–14 and Luke 6:6–11, but Mark adds a detail that arrests my attention.

As Jesus turns from their silence to the crippled man, Mark prefaces Jesus’ words with two subordinate clauses. In the bold words above, you see Jesus look around the room, from one person to the next, with anger. What might his face look like in this moment? Why is he so mad? What kind of people would be in a room where Jesus looks around with anger?

With Whom?

These aren’t people who know they are weak and want help. When Jesus gets angry, it’s with people who think showing compassion is a threat. Throughout the Gospels Jesus calls out sexual immorality and speaks very clearly about all sorts of moral issues. When the Gospel writers say he is mad, however, it is because people withhold love and grace from those who are broken and know they need help.

The best thing here is that Mark’s little addition (μετ᾿ ὀργῆς) highlights something about Jesus. If Jesus himself isn’t compassionate, his reaction doesn’t make sense, does it?