Traditional Holy Week is winding to a close - a week when Christians remember the final events in the life of Jesus. "Christ's Passion," we call those events, though as I've read them over this week the "passion" - in our modern sense of the word - seems to have been generated by others, not Jesus.
His critics were the hot-blooded ones. Jesus moved through the week in stoic melancholy. Hate and betrayal couldn't wring an ounce of anger from him.Anger was the furthest thing from his mind.
"Becoming angry is a conscious choice, a decision," Elder Lynn G. Robbins pointed out at LDS General Conference last week. "We can make the choice not to become angry."
I like that. Still, if you're like me, choosing not to blow your top is one thing; but choosing not to feel annoyed is another. Anger has a hundred faces. Displeasure is one of them. And it's a face I see in the mirror quite often. So as a test, I decided to compare my Holy Week this week with the one Jesus endured. Just to see how I matched up.
I'm glad a diploma didn't hinge on the test results.
During Holy Week, Jesus was betrayed by a dear friend and disciple.
No anger shown.
During my Holy Week, two of my friends went to lunch and didn't invite me.
I got annoyed.
Jesus was beaten and nailed to the cross during Holy Week.
I miss-hit a golf shot and strained my wrist.
Was I ever peeved.
Jesus was humiliated and scorned.
I heard someone tell an unflattering tale about me at a reunion.
I flipped out.
In the end, Jesus suffered through Holy Week.
I merely suffered by comparison. I stand amazed at his composure.
Looking through the New Testament, in fact, I can find only one instance where the word "anger" is applied to Jesus. The verse comes from Mark:
And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. (Mark 3:5)
Yet as Mark points out, this wasn't anger as we generally think of it. It was the anger of grief - much like the parent who knocks his head against the wall when a child goes bad. In New Testament times grief often looked like anger - full of wailing, chest-beating and torn clothing. I've even felt such angry grief myself. More than once I've clenched my fists in dismay.
But even then - like that miss-hit golf shot and my lonely lunch - my grief - my anger - was all about me. About my pain.
The genius of Jesus was his deepest grief was for the pain of others. I've known only a couple of people who attained that level of despair.
It has always eluded me.
My anger is old-fashioned self-important fuming.
In his talk, Elder Robbins pointed out we also take anger a step beyond self-importance. We tend to feel angry then see ourselves as martyrs, see ourselves as "victims of an emotion that we cannot control."
We feel self-righteous rage, then see ourselves suffering like Jesus.
And the gulf between that attitude and the wrenching sorrow of Jesus himself is wider than the deep, blue sea.
But then down inside of us, we already know that.
We know we've come up short.
It's why we hear remarks about anger from the pulpit and spend the following week dwelling on them.
It's why we get discouraged with ourselves.
But it is also why we celebrate Holy Week and Easter in the first place.