The words “Reach out and touch faith” pound through the speakers. No, it is not a new Christian station. My daughter has discovered First Wave, a primarily ‘80s station on satellite radio. Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus was released in 1989, so it still makes the cut-off. In the front seat, I realize my personal-growth part of Lent is ending and we are getting to the real business at hand. It’s almost Passion Week, and yet, I am not sure I can pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary one more time. Lenten Sorrow Fatigue is setting in. You, too? Take heart, hope is at hand. I am creating my own personal mysteries of the Rosary to pray, emphasizing a new aspect of getting to know Jesus. Introducing… The Grumpy Mysteries.
I always smile when I hear Bible Geek Mark Hart talk about Grumpy Jesus, and he is not the only one; this is an ecumenical concept. I think most pastors tend to focus on the Cleansing of the Temple, discussing righteous anger and why Jesus was flipping tables with a whip in hand and it still was not a sin. Some refer to the Gospel of Matthew as the Grumpy Gospel, since it contains the cleansing of the temple, the cursing of the fig tree, the parables where people get killed, and fights with the Pharisees.
In my view, these episodes show us how Jesus’ Divine and Human natures truly existed together. When is it OK to be angry? Ephesians 4:26 says “In your anger do not sin,” which roughly translates to: don’t let anger control you. It can be a valid part of correction. There is a big difference between anger at God’s will not being done and anger at my will not being done. As someone who has been known to struggle with anger issues, this is an important distinction. Even Pope Benedict XVI talks about value of not always being nice:
Love, in the true sense, is not always a matter of giving way, being soft, and just acting nice. In that sense, a sugar-coated Jesus or a God who agrees to everything and is never anything but nice and friendly is no more than a caricature of real love. Because God loves us, because he wants us to grow into truth, he must necessarily make demands on us and must also correct us.
I have laid the groundwork for the Grumpy Mysteries, but it’s still a work in progress. Two of my favorite candidates are from a juvenile/young adult Jesus: The Mouthing Off at the Temple (Jesus to worried parents: Where did you think I was?), and the “Oh, Mom!” moment from the Wedding at Cana (Jesus to Mom: Woman, it is not yet my time), are already official Rosary mysteries. Not for my reasons, but OK. After extensive research, I have located my top five Grumpy Jesus examples from His active ministry. I think they are worthy of meditation.
The Grumpy Mysteries
- The conversation with the Canaanite woman. Matthew 15:21. Remember this? The Canaanite woman kept asking Jesus to heal her daughter and he is pretty rude to her. I know she was a Gentile, but sheesh. She persists and He gives her the line about taking the children’s bread and giving it to the dogs. Again, she does not give up and He relents, praising the strength of her faith. I think her descendants are probably doing well in sales careers. Fruit of this Mystery: Perseverance.
- Healing the demonic boy. In this story from Matthew 17:14-20, a father asks Jesus to get a demon out of his son because the disciples couldn’t manage it. This is where Jesus gives his “Faithless and perverse generation” speech, basically telling the disciples their faith was weak and asking them when they were going to get with the program. Fruit of this mystery: Dependent faith in God.
- Snapping at Peter after feeding the four thousand. Mark 8:33. This is when Jesus predicts His own death and suffering, Peter tries to pull him back, and Jesus famously says “Get behind me, Satan!” A close second would be the disciples in the boat during the storm. Mark 4:38-40. Fruits of this mystery: Understanding suffering and belief in God’s power.
- Cursing the fig tree (my personal favorite). Matthew 21:18-22. It’s right after Palm Sunday. Things are getting heated with the Pharisees. Jesus wakes up hungry and finds a fig tree with no fruit on it. He gets angry at the tree, curses it, and it withers. Matthew notes it wasn’t even fig season. One commentator wrote that this was like being mad at the refrigerator because you forgot to buy milk. Jesus’ point, though, was that you must bear spiritual fruit through action; an outward show of faith is not enough. Fruit of this mystery: Putting faith into action.
- Jesus Cleansing the Temple. Matthew 21:12-17 (of course) and Luke19:45-48. You know it, you love it. Jesus tells the money lenders to get out of Dodge, flipping over tables and driving cattle and pigs out of the Temple. They probably weren’t even selling Knights of Columbus raffle tickets. Fruit of this mystery: Authenticity in worship.
This last part of Lent, I hope we can understand Jesus and His Passion in a new way. By understanding Jesus’ humanity, we can better understand ourselves and what we need to do to get closer to God. He will be there for us. As Depeche Mode says, “I will deliver/ You know I’m a forgiver.” So, go on, get grumpy!
For more Lenten introspection and insight from Susan, Anne, and friends, buy Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, paperback available now on Amazon.
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