Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The bland leading the bland

I spent last night at a local homeless shelter listening to a young man from my church speak about Christ. Towards the end of the sermon he mentioned that he likes to think of Jesus riding a motorcycle. His Jesus was a "real" man who wore boots, had long hair, and even smoked cigarettes because he wasn't afraid of what other people would say about him.

Frankly, I like Cameron's Jesus. I'm not sure He would spend the money for an indian motorcycle, but Jesus on two wheels feels right to me. The personality I see reflected in the bible's words on Jesus is the exact personality motorcycles are created for. I don't know when the common perception of Jesus got so watered down and boring but Jesus was nothing of the sort. Loud, brash, even offensive are all words which would have been used to describe Him, but boring? Never!

I realize that the thought of Jesus being offensive is strange to a lot of people. Many people will even be offended by calling Christ offensive and brash. Well, those people can get over it... He was.

John 2:13-16

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.”

Now I don't know about you, but if somebody came at me with a whip, I'd be pretty offended. I'm not saying that Jesus was a bad guy. He wasn't. The people who's sensibilities were offended by Jesus as he ate with sinners, healed on the sabbath, or spoke to the priests as someone above them needed to be offended. Just as when Jesus called Peter Satan (Matthew 16:23), he wasn't doing this simply to offend. He did these things to shock people into opening their eyes and seeing the truth.

One of the most often tools used by Jesus during His ministry was sarcasm. In Matthew 15 (21-27) We get the story of a Canaanite woman who came to Jesus asking for her daughter to be healed. When the apostles asked Him to send her away he asked her if it was right to heal her daughter as he was sent instead to heal jews. This is the conversation they had, slightly paraphrased as it appears in my mind:

Woman: Have mercy on me, Jesus, my daughter is posessed by a demon. Please heal her.

Jesus: I was sent only to the lost children of Israel. It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.

Woman: Yet even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.

Jesus: Well played, woman, well played. You have great faith! I will do as you ask.

At first look this is REALLY offensive. I believe I would have just broken down crying if Jesus had called my daughter a dog. But first looks can be deceiving. Did Jesus really mean that this woman's child was as a dog to Him? Certainly not!

What, then, was Jesus doing here? Jesus was being honest when he told the woman that He was sent here not fer gentiles, but for jews. His disciples knew this and they weren't going to let Him forget it either. Frequently we see disciples asking Jesus why he bothers with this lesser class of people and just as frequently we see Jesus ignoring convention and helping all who ask. This is what Jesus was doing here. He had likely already made up His mind to help the woman. He just wanted to get the attention of the disciples who had just asked him to simply send her away. He knew she had faith that He could heal her daughter, and He knew that she would fight for that help as would any mother. Jesus wasn't trying to offend the woman. He was lobbing one over the plate for her. He was trying to use this woman to drive in a point that was offensive it itself. That point was that He wasn't here simply for the Jews. He was here for anyone who would have Him.

Modern popular views on Jesus completely leave out these aspects of Jesus's personality. They ignore His frequent rudeness and near constant breaking of social norms. They place Him politely in the light brown cardboard box of blandness; and in doing so they create an uninspiring image of Jesus that men don't want to follow. So let's break the habit. When we speak of Jesus, let's speak of the man who pissed off the Jewish leaders so often that they had him killed. Let's speak of the man who wasn't afraid to assault sinners in church when they tried to take advantage of the poor. Let's talk about the Jesus who's only use for social norms was to break them in order to show his supremacy over the old laws. Let's put Jesus back on that motorcycle, riding through the desert on two wheels looking for the next town where He could start some trouble and win a few hearts.

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