Why It Matters That Jesus Got Mad

February 3, 2024 by Rev. Dr. Ron Bell

When my favorite uncle, Uncle Ronnie, gets mad, agitated, or frustrated, he paces. Regardless of what he is saying, you can tell by what his body is doing that he is dysregulated. I’ve inherited that trait. I express anger, frustration, and agitation the same way my uncle does. In fact, all of us have inherited emotional traits. Part of it is genetics; part of it is culture. Because our identities are shaped by our communities, so too are our expressions of emotions.

The fact that we inherit our emotions should not be separated from the truth that we are made in the image of God. What emotions do we see God expressing in scripture? This question leads to a journey of observing the emotional expressions of God in the Bible and of Jesus in the Gospels. And that journey is transformative.

How freeing is it to know that God has acted out of jealousy and that Jesus expressed weariness? How does it change your own emotional journey to know that God repented of rash decisions or that Jesus was once so tired of people that he tried to hide and not be seen? These revelations help us to embrace our full humanity and expressions of our emotions authentically and beautifully.

These revelations give us permission to feel and to express our feelings. Sure, my uncle gets angry, but so did Jesus. Sometimes, I get weary, and so did Jesus. There are times when I just want to quit and give up, and so did Jesus. There are moments when I have responded out of emotions and not out of critical thought, and so did Jesus. We were taught that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. Yet, often, the focus of our “Christianity” is in seeking to replicate the divinity of Christ without spending time observing and making space for the humanity of Jesus. It's in the humanity of Jesus that I think we find the greatest freedom.

This opens a portal for us to see that all our emotions are valid. They are gifts from God. God expressed emotions, and Jesus in flesh modeled them for us. This revelation reshapes how we see our Christian identity.

Making space for our emotions by seeing them in Jesus’ full humanity prevents us from isolating ourselves, viewing our emotions as ungodly, thinking erroneously that happiness or joy are the only acceptable emotions we can express. This work frees us from that. It’s okay to get mad like Jesus; just remember to forgive like Jesus. It’s okay to get weary or tired like Jesus; just remember to love like Jesus. It’s okay to want to get away from people, to hide like Jesus; just remember to serve like Jesus also.

Rev. Dr. Ron Bell is the Director of Healing and Resilience at The Upper Room. 

This reflection appeared in the February edition of The Upper Room Journal, a monthly newsletter to support you in creating daily life with God. Subscribe here.

Photograph by Kashawn Hernandez / Unsplash

Journal Prompts

In what ways do you see yourself reflecting the emotional traits of your family or community, and how does this shape your understanding of yourself as made in the image of God?

Reflect on a moment when you felt conflicted about expressing a certain emotion. How does understanding Jesus’ human emotions help you reconcile with your own emotional responses? 

Consider the role of emotions in your faith journey. How can recognizing the humanity in Jesus enhance your spiritual growth and understanding?

Share your responses with others in the comments below!

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