Mark's Indignant Ihsou: Studies in Mark, Pt. 3

One of the things that I love about Mark’s account of the Gospel is that when it comes to showing the emotions of Jesus, Mark is “no holds barred.” For example, Mark repeatedly shows the angry side of Jesus; a side that few of us ever think of except when we hear about the temple episode (a.k.a. the temple tantrum). Yet, there are a few places where Mark shows Jesus getting upset.

For example, in Mk. 1.41, the text in English reads: 40. “A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, ‘If You are willing You can make me clean.’ 41. Jesus was compassionate (or indignant). He reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said, ‘Be clean!’”

Now if you noticed, in verse 41, the term “indignant” or “angry” can stand in the place of compassionate. Indeed, a number of early manuscripts have orgistheis (angry) instead of the traditional splagchnistheis (compassionate). Of course, the term “compassionate” fits the story well and makes for a simple reading. However, the term “angry” makes the reading harder and seems to complicate things a little bit. Yet, following the simple rule that the harder reading is usually closer to the original (this is because a scribe would not have come along and made an easier reading harder but instead would have made a harder reading easier), “angry” or “indignant” seems to be the better term here.

In the context of Mark’s account, it fits well too. Over and over again, Mark shows that Jesus is upset with the empire and with what the Jewish religion has been turned into. In the case of the leper mentioned above, Jesus was upset because the religious leaders had marginalized him in society and had probably banned him from the synagogue. He was disgusted at the way they treated him; they made him an outsider to the faith. I think that this is why Mark takes such great pains to mention just a few verses later that Jesus is eating with the sick, the sinners and the tax collectors. Mark wants to show the contrast between the two ways that faith or religion is done!

Even more, in 3.5, Mark tells us that when in the synagogue, Jesus “looked around at the religious leaders in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.” He was upset with them because they were putting their own politics before loving others. We see this anger (righteous anger, of course) in 11.12-26 as well when Jesus began driving out the religious leaders who had turned the temple into a place where the empire’s political agenda was being carried out (note: Jesus is not upset here because people were exchanging coins, the temple was where they were supposed to do that; He is mad because the place has been overcome with the imperial agenda).

When you couple these scenes with all of the warnings where Jesus tells His followers to “watch carefully” or to “be on guard” against the religious leaders (4.24; 8.15; 12.38; 23.5, 9, 23, 33), you cannot help but see that Jesus is angry with the leaders and the ways that they have set things up; they are oppressing people!

I wonder if one of the reasons we have overlooked or ignored this fact is because when Jesus is upset, He is mostly upset with the religious leaders? Do we religious leaders not want the finger pointed back on us? Now, I know He gets upset with the disciples too (e.g. 8.33). Many times we don’t shy away from those passages because they include everyone, especially “the congregation.” Perhaps it is time for today’s religious leaders to read these passages in a way that holds them accountable for their ministries; may we speak out against injustice and preach the truth; may we get righteously angry and hate sin while at the same time, standing up for what’s right and loving others!


  1. What an insightful study! Your over all point is well taken. There is something quite unique about 'religious sin' that Mark explores very well. I appreciate your translation work-I myslef am not in the habit (unfortunately) of 'getting at the Greek' as it were; that is until I come to issues like this.

    Thanks again for your work!