First, an apology. I hoped to have this blog entry posted about 5 days ago, but occupying a 6 month old’s attention has occupied my time pretty well over the last few days. So, sorry for the delay.
Second, I just want to say thanks to all those visiting! This little labor of love has started to attract a few hundred visitors a day, which kind of blows my mind. I don’t get paid to write this site, and that would be a dream, but it is so humbling to see the readership growing week to week. Due to this, I created a Facebook page for the site, and I would love it if you liked the page. You can do so by clicking on the link above, or adding yourself on the side panel. I would also love it you joined my Twitter feed on the side panel. Anything you can do to help this little site grow is appreciated. And please, feel free to comment and share these entries on your social networks! It would really mean a lot.
Now without further ado, we are going to resume the series that we began last week, 5 destructive myths about Jesus. And hold onto your tail-feathers, because this is a hard one for some of us to swallow-
Destructive myths about Jesus #2: Everyone loved what Jesus had to say (aka Everything is A-Okay Jesus)
Last week we discussed (and refuted) one of the most destructive myths about Jesus- that Jesus was a wimp. When He walked the earth, Jesus was a man’s man in both strength and in character. He was magnetic. Bold. Brash. Humble. Men that followed Him wanted to be like Him. Women held Him in high esteem and regard. The authorities were terrified of Him. I will say it before and I will say it again…people don’t leave everything behind to follow Urkel. But for Jesus? People have been willing to sacrifice everything for over 2000 years.
Nope. Doesn’t sound wimpy to me.
This week we are going to take a look at another equally destructive myth that is rampant in the world today, that of Everyone loved what Jesus had to say (aka Everything is A-Okay Jesus).
What is that exactly, you ask?
Let me enlighten you.
Most of the time when we hear sermons in church, or imagine Jesus speaking in our minds, we visualize large crowds gathered at Jesus’ feet adoring every nugget of truth that dripped from His lips. We see children frolicking and giggling around Him like He was some type of human may-pole. We imagine eager listeners feeling good about themselves and smiling, sighing in wonder at the Glory set before them. We imagine Jesus just patting us on the back and saying, gee guys, everything is just swell.
Many pastors and leaders, especially Sunday school teachers, encourage this presentation of Jesus. It gives congregations the warm fuzzies. It makes us feel good. It makes us feel like we have a cohesive bond with all those folks from 2000 years ago.
And it’s easy.
But golly gee Wally, that kind of stuff didn’t always happen. In fact, a lot of the time, it got downright nasty when crowds gathered around Jesus because He had a tendency to intentionally say things that took people off guard. He said many things that a lot of churches don’t like to talk about on Sunday mornings, because gosh, it just makes things complicated.
Because you know, brother, we have tithers.
But by presenting a Jesus that only said things that people loved and agreed with, or a Jesus that only said things that made people feel good, it takes away from both the rich complexity of who He was on earth and the simplicity of Jesus’ message. Because while He was on earth, Jesus’ had this amazing ability to challenge you on every level you held dear to push you past what you thought your limits were. And nothing, I mean nothing, was out of bounds.
And to cover over what Jesus said, is to cover over who Jesus is.
And I happen to get a little ‘ornery about that.
Proving the myth that everyone loved what Jesus had to say is a big ole’ stinkin’ lie
Last week I discussed how the Pharisees, the Sadducees and others in authority were terrified of Jesus. Ipso facto, we know they obviously didn’t love what He had to say.
But what about the common people?
We know all about the Sermon on the Mount and other moments that our safe Sunday sermons love to focus on (even though there are some very unsafe topics in that sermon when you dig into it).
But careful reading of your Bible will show you plenty of moments where Jesus said some very unpopular things. In fact, there were times Jesus intentionally tried to tick people off. After all, when you examine Jesus’ ministry closely, I think you will find that Jesus wasn’t in the game of courting public opinion or tailoring His sermons to His family, disciples or “adoring” crowds.
In fact, Jesus was so good at whipping people into a frenzy, that quite often many wanted to kill Him…or completely abandon Him.
Our first example- The truth may set you free, but you may want to kill Him first
In Luke 4, Jesus has finally launched His ministry. He has returned from the wilderness, on fire for God after being filled with the Spirit and defeating the temptations of Satan. He comes to Nazareth, where He was raised, enters the synagogue and calls for and reads from the scroll of Isaiah (61:1-2 (with slight modification)) to the crowd. Then He sits down and tells everyone that He is the fulfillment of Scripture, in effect announcing He is the Messiah.
Holy frijoles! You have to get the gravity of this moment, because this is huge. Either He is the fulfillment of scripture or He is one of the biggest blasphemers to ever walk the planet!
At first people are amazed. Then they begin to get a little upset. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they say. And then they get a lot upset, especially when Jesus doesn’t back down and instead gives them a verbal smack-down (Luke 4:23-27). The crowd does not take well to this. The Bible is clear. It says everyone was enraged. They drove Jesus to the edge of a cliff to hurl Him over the side and kill Him, but instead He passed through the crowd and escaped (one of Jesus’ numerous Houdini moves over His ministry).
Now think about this. Archeological records state that Nazareth at that time was only about 480 people strong. This is the town that Jesus was raised in. He knew these people. Ate with them. Went to temple with them. Lived amongst them. He was a carpenter, so I am sure He helped build many of their homes and goods. He was a guest in their homes, a friend of the family. His picture was in the high school yearbook as most likely to rock the world. They knew the Dude intimately.
And they wanted to kill Him.
And this was one of Jesus’ FIRST ministry stops.
Yeah. Everyone loved what Jesus had to say alright.
Wait! Another example that not everyone loved what Jesus had to say
And in case you missed the bold italics above, let me repeat it again. How about the sermon the day freaking after miraculously feeding 5000 people from only a few loaves and fishes?
Not a year. Not a month. Not a week.
The number of Jesus’ disciples had grown. Crowds followed Him wherever He went. People wanted to anoint Him king based on the wonders they witnessed in His presence. Yet, John 6 states that while in the synagogue of Capernaum, people confronted Jesus, asking Him to give them another sign, asking Him to give them bread from Heaven.
Understanding what is going on, and not feeling like He has to prove anything (boy, that’s a sermon in itself), Jesus tells them that He is the bread of life and whoever comes to Him will never be hungry.
That didn’t go over well. The people began to argue, saying Isn’t this Joseph’s son and yo, I’m hungry, give a brother some more of that wonder bread!
Ten minutes before they wanted to anoint Him king based on His miracles. And now, because He doesn’t give them what they immediately desire, they go right back to questioning His identity again and wanting Him to prove Himself.
Jesus doesn’t try to reason with them. He doesn’t bust out the flowchart explaining what is going on. He doesn’t defer to an on the fly Power-point presentation or His newly published novel. He pushes the envelope further and follows with a “yeah, not only am I the bread of Heaven, but if you eat of this bread you will live forever.”
Jesus doesn’t back down and follows with, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves…the one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me.”
And everyone, even His own disciples who had witnessed Him performing miracle after miracle, freaked out to such a degree that everyone left Him except the original twelve.
Jesus said, and I paraphrase, “Well now that I have offended everyone and drove the unbelievers away, do you guys want to take off too?”
And Peter replies, and I paraphrase, “Lord, we can’t leave you. We have no idea what you are talking about, but your words do something inside of us. They are life. We believe you are the Holy one of God.”
Jesus wasn’t interested in building, financing and proving a mega-ministry. And He wasn’t afraid of ticking people off to find out who believed in Him for who He was, instead of believing in Him because of what He could do for them.
You may want to write that down. Because that is a huge point that all of us can learn from.
Even more instances that prove Can’t We All Just Get Along Jesus is a Myth
What about what Jesus said against the unrepentant? “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you,Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
Yikes. Pretty harsh.
How about when the disciples couldn’t rid the boy of a demon and instead of Jesus immediately swooping in for the rescue, He replied with “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me” and then He cast the demon out! That’s a pretty harsh thing to say. He didn’t pat them on the back and say it’s okay guys, I understand. I’m God and you aren’t. He was pissed! Its not like the disciples didn’t try to cast the demon out. They just failed by obviously not walking in the authority that they had been gifted with (hey look, there is another sermon topic for someone out there).
How about when He called Peter satan a mere 7 verses after Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah? Literally. Seven verses. Peter must’ve looked like he got smacked across the face with a crowbar.
Look, not everyone loved what Jesus had to say.
After all, don’t forget that before His crucifixion, Pilate was willing to release Jesus from his sentence if the crowd willed it. But who did they ask for? The crowd instead asked for the release of the Jewish revolutionary, Barabbas.
The crowd thought Jesus deserved death more than a riot-inciting murderer.
Fact is, there were many people who didn’t like Jesus. They didn’t like Him so much, they wanted Him dead. Jesus was a challenging figure. He was God walking and living upon the Earth as a man. You have to expect that He would rub many people the wrong way.
But He was never much worried about that.
Everything is A-Okay Jesus is an utter fabrication. And that’s not okay.
And this myth persists because we are lazy. Because we shy away from controversy. Because we are afraid. Because we actually do not want to count the cost of what it means to follow Jesus. We want safe and secure lives and canned power-point 45 minute (and that’s pushing it) sermons on Sunday while we enjoy free coffee and daycare for our kids while they get taught good “morals.” We want our lessons to be tied up neatly in little bows, and we want our pastors and teachers to do the dirty work for us so we can be spoon fed and think we’ve eaten a real meal. We don’t want to have to study through things on our own because that just takes too much work. We want to hear that everything is going to be alright, that Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. We don’t want to get down and dirty and realize that Jesus didn’t promise rainbows and pots of gold. We don’t want to realize that if we truly want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, the Bible actually promises us all something that none of us particularly care for- persecution. So instead we try to live lives that are as persecution free as possible. We try to live lives as comfortable as possible, so in America our messages have been watered down and packaged as if I believe it I can achieve it and if I just focus on good things coming to me that’s what will happen.
And that’s so wrong.
Because it’s not about you.
Now hear my heart. I’m not saying Jesus wasn’t loving when He walked the face of the earth. He is the very face of love. And He loves us unconditionally. The undisputed ruler of the universe came to serve us and die for us upon Earth. Its not every day that God steps off His throne to sacrifice Himself because His children just couldn’t get it right.
But to reduce Him down to this harmless caricature, hopping and skipping in a field surrounded by children and daisies…this madness has to stop. Because that’s not who He is. He was the most controversial Man to ever walk the face of the planet. He was challenging. He cut to the quick. His words were so sharp that He could separate joint and marrow. And occasionally, that hurt.
I wouldn’t expect any less out of the Son of God.
And yes, Jesus loves me with the passion of the universe. And yes, He loves me at my worst as much as He does at my best. He paid the ultimate cost to bring me back into right relationship. He gave me this ultimate gift, for free, not because I earned it or was deserving of it, but because He looked down the endless stream of time, saw me at my absolute worst and said something that drops me to my knees every time I hear His voice inside my head…
He said that even in that place, I was worth it.
Jesus is the only gift you will ever receive for free that will cost you everything.
And when I fall to my knees to kiss His bloodied and scarred feet, overcome with grief because I realize that just like you, if I had been one of the crowd in Nazareth I would have wanted Him dead… if I had been His disciple I would have abandoned Him…if I had been one of the crowd in Jerusalem I would have sentenced Him to the cross…if I had been a Roman soldier I would have paraded Him around in mockery and spat upon Him and cast lots for His clothes…when I sob uncontrollably at what I was responsible for inflicting upon Him, He gently reaches down, pulls me to my feet, looks deep into my eyes, and wipes my tears away as I hear Him say…
You were worth it.
How dare we not act like it?
How dare we not show the world who the real Jesus truly was and is and is to come?
Because He is worthy of it all.
…how dare we?