The wrath of God

Another time Jesus 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 around 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 his disciples of working on the Sabbath; they now hoped to accuse Jesus of the same.

But Jesus 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 means wrath or anger. It's often translated as 'wrath' in the New Testament (Rom 2:5; 1Th 1:10) and describes the righteous anger of God against sinners. 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

Jesus said that he did nothing by himself, he only did what he saw his Father doing (Joh 5:19). He also said that he didn't speak of his own accord, but the Father who sent him commanded him what to say and how to say it (Joh 12:49).

That means that during his ministry on earth every action and word came from his Father. That is why when Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father,' Jesus said that anyone who had seen him had 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 them 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 showing displeasure when he sees something he doesn't approve of. How far from the truth that is!

God's wrath

One of the most popular verses in the Bible is Joh 3:16, which speaks of God's love. Most Christians can quote it from memory and it's frequently used in evangelism. But how many 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 them.

That verse tells us that if someone rejects Jesus Christ, God's wrath remains on that person, which means that it was on them before they rejected him. The truth is that everyone on earth is under God's wrath because of their sin; it's only as we turn to Jesus that it's removed from us.

Rom 8:1 tells us that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ are no longer condemned. The word 'condemned' in the Bible means to be sentenced adversely, to be damned (doomed to eternal torment), which is the hell Jesus spoke about (Mat 23:33) and came to save us from.

In their attempt to get sinners saved, some Christians present God as attractively as they can in the hope that people might desire him. But God doesn't need to be made acceptable to sinners, sinners needs to be made acceptable to him; and he has made that possible through the death of his Son.

Salvation through Christ

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

'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 for you and for me so that we won't have to drink it. 1Th 5:9 says that God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through Jesus Christ. As he hung on the cross Jesus suffered the wrath of God for your sins and for mine so that we could be saved from it (Rom 5:9).

Sorrow and pain

At the beginning of our 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 our sins is revealed in Gen 6:5–6:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled [Hebrew to be grieved, filled with pain].

God is angry with the world because of its sin and his heart is filled with pain because of it. Because he loves the world he sent his Son to die for its sin (Joh 3:17), but if we refuse his offer of salvation his wrath will remain 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?

Have you received the offer of salvation God is making to you through his Son, Jesus Christ? If you haven't, then do so today.

Jesus healed a man with a shrivelled hand right in front of the Pharisees. Matthew tells us that his hand was completely restored, just as sound as the other (Mat 12:13); but they 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
Revised April 2019

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved.

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