The problem with me is that I take Jesus for granted. I think I have somehow pigeon-holed Him and figured Him out. Instinctively, I make Him look, sound and believe like me. Surely Jesus would go to my church. I spend most of my time studying theology, but I miss the Man, Jesus. I miss His foibles, His mystery, His idiosyncrasies, His “otherness.”
When I look at Jesus, I see a Man who goes out of His way to perform miracles in secret only to turn around and heal the sick in front of the religious elite on the Sabbath, who flees from crowds who seek to make Him King and yet willingly walks into the arms of those who seek to kill Him, who makes God’s law MORE difficult to keep and then provides a way to keep it, who condemns adultery and exploiting the poor, yet rich men and adulterous women love His presence. I can’t figure Him out.
Then there are the uncomfortable parts of the Gospels I don’t like because I don’t understand them. Jesus’ miracles were blocked by people’s lack of faith, He doesn’t know the day or the hour of the Second Coming, He rarely makes claims about His DEITY to His disciples and yet openly admits it to a Samaritan woman and a Roman Prefect. He gets angry, He is passionate and easily moved to tears, He constantly seeks alone-time and yet He is often very lonely, He is “very God of very God” and yet asks God to change His mind if possible.
Another problem I have while reading the Gospels is that I know the FULL story while those in the story do not. I miss the wonder of the miracles, the joy and expectation of Jesus being the Messiah who would crush the Roman army and reinstate Israel, the anguish, terror, and gut-wrenching despair at His crucifixion. I know on Good Friday that He will rise on Easter Sunday. The disciples did not. I miss the emotions and lessons in the waiting, the unknown.
My goal in this series is to address the mystery of this Man. I want to feel the surprise, wonder, fear, expectation, impatience, worry, anxiety and doubt of His followers. Because I feel these emotions most days, and if I can read the Gospels and feel impatient, frustrated or sympathetic toward the disciples’ fear, anxiety, worry and doubt, then there is hope for me and you! There is something they don’t know that if they knew, they would not be so worried, fearful, or anxious. Join me as I study the God Man Jesus.
But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there.
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
Matthew 12: 14-15; Mark 3:7-12;
I don’t think I’ve ever phrased it this way, but why does Jesus run and hide from the Pharisees? Isn’t Jesus more powerful than these men? Can you imagine the Son of God running and hiding? This isn’t the only instance of Jesus retreating in the Gospels. Jesus walks through the crowd of those trying to kill Him, His family tries to hide Him because they think He is crazy, Jesus and His family flee to Egypt when Herod tries to kill Him as an infant.
We are told in John 7:30 that Jesus’ “time had not yet come.” Jesus was strategic, not fearful, scared or unsure of Himself. He knew He was going to die, but He had more to accomplish before He died. More than that, Revelations 13:8; 1 Peter 1:20 tell us that Jesus had been orchestrating His life and death before the world was created. In John 7:31-36, Jesus tells the Pharisees that He is in control of His life. Jesus is making His way, step by step, to the Cross.
The fact that Jesus has to flee signifies a change in Jesus’ relationship with the Pharisees. Before this incident, Jesus could come and go as He pleased in Jerusalem. In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees thought Jesus was a young, fresh Rabbi who had a lot to offer. If Twitter had been around, Jesus would have been trending. His image and popularity would have greatly helped the Pharisees, but He was not joining the Pharisaical fold. And as time went on, Jesus went from a novelty to a nuisance. Up to this point, there was tension, but not murderous intention. They were getting annoyed at Jesus. But this miracle pushes them over the edge.
Have you ever been publicly humbled or proven wrong? It’s a terrible feeling, one that can drive you to respond in many ways – anger, rage, fear, desperation. Jesus openly defies, contradicts and humbles the religious leaders . . . in front of everyone . . . over and over and over. And the Pharisees can’t catch Him or prove Him wrong. Jesus finally heals a man in the Synagogue, breaking the Pharisaical “rules” about Sabbath work, and then tells the Pharisees they are breaking God’s Law because of their lack of compassion. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. They broke the law by NOT working on the Sabbath?! There is a visceral gut reaction they have toward this Man. How dare this Man redefine their law? How dare He try to convict them for obeying God!
But to be humbled, corrected and proven wrong by a Man who spends most of His time with prostitutes, the homeless, the poor, the demon-possessed, the uneducated? That is inconceivable to these men. Now, let’s be honest with each other. We all have some preconceived notions about certain groups and classes of people, don’t we? There are stereotypes that we associate with the poor or with people who have “colorful” pasts, we have illogical fear and assumptions toward the homeless or uneducated. We have an assumption that if you are a good person (moral, hard-working, honest), things work out for you. So if things are not working out for you, you probably aren’t a good person (immoral, lazy, dishonest). And that is in today’s “enlightened” society.
In Jesus’ day, there were spiritual implications applied to these groups of people that further alienated them. Women who were prostitutes were stoned to death in the street, the homeless and poor were assumed to be degenerates and “far from God,” those with diseases were thought to be cursed and abandoned by God because of their sins. In other words, they were all sinners, willfully defying God, and if you spent time with them, spoke to them, or even touched them, you were a sinner too. Jesus spent most of His time with those on the margins of society, and was thus labeled a sinner, a drunkard, a glutton.
The more Jesus reveals Himself, the more the Pharisees hate Him. The Pharisees and Sadducees hated Him because they thought He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the Rich Young Ruler rejected Jesus’ teaching and went away sorrowful because Jesus asked “too much” of him, Pontius Pilot mocked and scorned Him, Herod treated Him with contempt and made fun of Him, some of His “followers” abandoned Jesus when the teaching became too difficult, the Zealots were disenchanted with Jesus since He never called for political revolt . . . . They met the real Jesus and rejected Him. Beyond the miracles, the healing, the mercy, tenderness and compassion, there is something dangerous about Jesus that these men see. Jesus wasn’t what THEY wanted Him to be. They wanted Jesus to change rather than be changed by Him.
The poor, needy, broken and outcasts of society love Jesus for the same reason the religious hate Him. Jesus actually spends time with them, teaches and leads them, loves them, heals them. Jesus is bringing God to them, rather than making them jump through a bunch of impossible hoops, laws, regulations and expectations. They follow Him everywhere, hanging on His every word.
Mary Magdalene was healed of her demon possession and followed Jesus everywhere, Nicodemus crossed a giant cultural barrier despite the fact he was a Pharisee, Zaccheus gave away half his wealth in joy after He met Jesus, the Samaritan woman shared her adulterous story with her entire village and led them back to the Messiah because of one discussion with Him, the dying thief on the cross put his hope in the dying Jesus next to him, Jesus’ closest friends and family DIED because they would not recant their testimonies about Jesus, Saul who became Paul was the biggest enemy of the church, murdering Christians wholeheartedly, and one encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus turned him into the most sold-out advocate of Jesus this world has ever seen . . . causing him great persecution, eventually leading to his own death. These folks met the real Jesus, and they loved Him and died rather than deny Him. Jesus wasn’t initially what they expected, but they were changed by Him.
This should tell us something. There is no in-between with Jesus, no apathy. During Jesus’ time on Earth, people either loved and worshiped Him and gave their lives to Him, or hated Him and wanted to kill Him. How about you? Do you love Jesus or hate Jesus? Is Jesus just not what you expected? Is He not what you want Him to be?
The historians, theologians, critics and philosophers keep trying to reinvent this Jesus. They say Jesus was a good teacher, an environmentalist, a philosopher, a revolutionary, a pioneer in women’s rights, a political activist…. But He refuses to be pigeon-holed or put in a nice, safe box. This is the reason why some love Him while others hate Him. He said He was one with God, He said He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one gets to God without going through Him. He told his followers that if they did not hate their family and their lives, they couldn’t be His disciple. He said He didn’t come to bring peace but a sword, to set son against father, daughter against mother. He said that if a part of your body causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. He said that whoever loves his life will lose his life.
If you are apathetic toward Him, then you don’t know the true Jesus. Apathy is not an option Jesus gives to anyone. Jesus wasn’t just a nice guy who preached about love, peace and harmony. We don’t beat and torture those people and then hang them on a cross to die. Jesus is dangerous, exclusive, demanding, all-encompassing.
Early on in the Christian faith, there were many schisms and misunderstandings of the true Jesus. There were divisions and factions that tried to make Jesus into Someone other than Who He truly was and is. So Paul, an apostle, who had met Jesus, served with the disciples who followed Jesus, and was a part of many miracles and signs, wrote letters to the early church reinforcing the truth of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lays out the most comprehensive presentation of the Gospel in the Bible. This is what it says:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Jesus is God in the flesh, and His death on the cross was for the forgiveness of our sins so that we may be forgiven, restored and accepted by God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no in between with Jesus – you either reject Him flat out as a liar, a manipulator or a megalomaniac, or you accept Him for who He says He is, worship Him, follow Him, give your life to Him. What do you do with Jesus?