Interview with Tim Harlow, Senior Pastor of Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, Illinois
Q: This month your new book was released, called What Made Jesus Mad? What did make Jesus mad, would you say?
A: I think there was a theme to Jesus’ anger: Denied Access to the Father.
Q: For you, what is the key story of Jesus getting mad?
A: I think the key story has to be what I call the Temple Tantrum. At one point Jesus says: “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” Mark 11:17
There are three parts to that statement: a den of robbers, house of prayer, and for all nations.
Certainly, the den of robbers was part of his problem, but I think where they were robbing was the real problem. Jesus was in the outer court, the “all nations” part of the temple when he decided enough was enough. This robbing was taking place in the Court of the Gentiles. It was the place where God provided access to the rest of the world.
Jesus’ anger was directed at the Jews who turned the non-Jews’ house of prayer into a market, thereby denying access, literally, to the outsiders who wanted to worship God. In other words, the outsiders, those who felt furthest from the Father, were the ones who suffered the most. They were being robbed not only of their hard-earned money but of their very access to God. This practice made Jesus angry because that’s what he came to provide.
He came to rip the veil and give us an all-access pass to a beautiful relationship with our heavenly Father; the relationship for which we were created. He’ll throw tables or animals or people out of the way to give us this all-access pass. He gave up his own life for it.
Q: Was Jesus really mad a lot?
A: To be clear, I can only really find three times when the Bible tells us Jesus is angry. But listen to the language. It’s hard to call someone a “brood of vipers” or a “child of hell” or tell someone they’d be better off with a “millstone” necklace and thrown into the sea – with a smile on your face. There are more red, red letters than we like to admit.
Q: What were the main issues Jesus got mad about?
A: Four things caused Jesus to be angry, and all of them were directed at the “church” people: Legalism, Hypocrisy, Judgmentalism, and Indifference to need.
Take legalism, for example. The problem is not the laws themselves; it’s when our interpretation of the rules or even our enforcement of those laws gets in the way of people making it home to the Father. That’s my definition. I don’t think Christians are comfortable with grace; that’s the problem. And when we’re not comfortable, we sure don’t want other people to be.
We are not comfortable with Jesus’ approach to the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you, now go and leave your life of sin.” We believe Jesus should have said, “go and leave your life of sin, and then I won’t condemn you.”
As a matter of fact, according to Augustine, the early church left the whole story out of many manuscripts to “avoid scandal.” We just aren’t all that comfortable with grace.
Q: What do you want people to get from your book?
A: One thing is, we need a better relationship with our Father. When we begin to see God as our Father who loves us instead of as our judge who wants to smite us, all the rules and guidelines in the Bible don’t feel so constricting. If you can just read “thou shalt have no other gods before me” as “don’t go follow other dads” this relationship will start to make sense.
How to Use This Book
Christians love to focus on the gentle and tender heart of Jesus. We often don’t know what to do with the Bible’s stories of his righteous rage. But when we look at what made Jesus mad, it was when good intentions, prejudices and judgments, traditions and rules, and selfish and joyless people conspired to keep others from God’s presence. As a leader, that should make you mad too! This book will lead you to examine yourself and your anger, and measure yourself against the passion of Jesus, which was directed at bringing people to the heart of God.
Tim Harlow is the senior pastor of Parkview Christian Church, one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America. He has spent thirty years working with people who have baggage from their past church experiences. He knows what drives people away and that the Jesus of the Bible is ultimately the hope that brings them back. Tim and his family make their home in the south suburbs of Chicago.