St. Luke 19:41-48
August 24, 2014 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is certain wrath at work in Jesus. Sin and unbelief frustrate and make Him angry. The money-changers in the Temple provoke Him to physical violence and He foretells the horrors that Jerusalem will suffer due to their rejection of His grace.
God does not become angry the way that we do. He is not corrupt. He does not cooperate with temptation. The Gospel for today is paradigmatic of His wrath. Looking over Jerusalem, He says “The days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
If God’s wrath is taken seriously, then Christians also have to engage in some wrath. Yet “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord. To insist on vengeance, to be angry, is to take Divine prerogative unto oneself. There are lots of places in Holy Scripture where we are warned against anger.
I can find only one place where the New Testament commends righteous anger in Christians. In 2nd Corinthians St. Paul first commends the Corinthians for their repentance and godly grief over the sin that he rebuked them for in 1 Corinthians and then he writes: “godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” He commends their indignation, literally, their wrath over sin because that wrath has come from repentance. They are right to hate the things that God hates.
But it is very hard for fallen men to hate what God hates and stop there.
God’s wrath contains human anger, but it is not blind rage nor is it desire for revenge. He is a Man, like us, but He is without sin. So His anger does not come from the fact that He has been snubbed or suffered some injustice or been insulted. He suffers all of that without remark, like a lamb to the slaughter, praying for those who kill Him. The anger of Jesus is directed toward rejection of His grace.
That is what always drives His anger in the Gospels. He addressed Satan with anger in Matthew 4 because he sought to hinder God’s grace. He angrily threatened demons in Mark and Luke for the same reason. In Matthew 9 Jesus angrily forbade those He has just healed from spreading that news. He was angry because He foresaw their disobedience borne of unbelief. He was likewise provoked by unbelieving Jews who in His presence took up conspicuous wailing and grief even though He had already proclaimed Himself to be the resurrection and the life in John chapter 11.
This is the wrath of the Lord. His frustration comes not simply because the disobedience is so vile, but because the disobedience rejects and refuses His grace or in some way threatens to hinder it. In particular He is full of angry sorrow at the Pharisees’ hard hearts when He asks if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath and they refuse to answer.
Part of that anger was at their legalism. They would not accept the way of mercy and salvation. They sought to burden others with false law. But it is also the wrath of love. For He sought also to win the Pharisees. He was frustrated and angry that they were refusing His grace and insisting on their own way even though it was the way of death.
God’s wrath is always mixed with divine pity and compassion. It is never self-serving or self-righteous. He suffers that His people, those for whom He died, are so far from Him. This wrath is seen very clearly in the parable of the banquet in Luke 14. When his invitation is despised by those invited, the master becomes anger. What is worse is the wrath of the forgiving master toward the wicked servant who refuses to forgive his brother after he was forgiven. There is a clear pattern here: God’s wrath is not simply mixed with mercy, but it is driven by mercy and is itself a kind of wounded love.
We need to pay attention to this because if we take up the new age theology of George Lucas where anger is always negative, we cannot take God, who obviously has wrath in both the Old and the New Testaments, seriously. And if we explain God’s wrath away, we explain away His Law and will. We are left with nothing but a fantasy, where there can be no real mercy or compassion in God. Without wrath, without that wounded love, without anger over these things, God’s grace would be impersonal and cold. Besides which, there would be no reason for Jesus to die.
Sop that is where His wrath comes from. But the destruction of Jerusalem foretold by Our Lord and His cleansing of the Temple also show us where His wrath is going. In St. John’s vision we see the Christ, the Word of God, wearing a blood-drenched robe that has the title “King of kings and Lord of lords” written on it, with a sword proceeding from His mouth. He is treading the winepress of the wrath of Almighty God (Rev. 19). In Revelation 6 John uses the unusual expression “the wrath of the Lamb.” This is the Christ who went as Lamb to the slaughter and made no sound against the false-judgment of men. He is now risen from the dead. He will come as wrathful Judge. He will exercise terrible judgment on men, both the living and the dead. His wrath must be taken seriously.
Even there His wrath is “against those who despised the self-sacrifice of the Lamb.” He is the Lord who opened paradise to the repentant thief. He is the Lord who gives wine to drunks. He is the Lord who laid down His life as a ransom. And the things that bring wrath are the things that threaten you and your salvation. His wrath, like His justice, born in love, will not stop until it is complete, until you are safe at home with Him where you belong.
It is this Lord, who loves you to the point of anger, who loves you enough to not only die for you but also fight for you, who visits you this day in the Holy Communion with the things that make for peace: His Body, His Blood.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Co 7:9–11.
 Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 427–429. Nearly all, if not all, of the Scripture reference were taken from this article along with the main understanding of wrath.