I love the non conformism of Jesus. He surprised, He angered, He stunned people with His behaviour. He overturned tables everyone else felt comfortable with. He did not wash where the done thing was to do it, ostentatiously. He held forth about praying secretly rather than where everyone could see and marvel at your holiness. Then He came up with stuff about giving secretly, giving secretly, now what is that? How are people to know how amazing you are if you do not do your amazing stuff for all to see?
Strangely He did not seem to think that what people saw mattered as much as what God saw, and went on to add that your heavenly Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you openly. That’s good, but then He said if you do your good stuff to be seen by men, then their admiration is all the reward you’re getting, God considers you’ve had enough. That’s slightly less palatable. And some of us still choose the admiration of our peers over God’s approval.
So Jesus kicked against things people thought normal, much to the delight of the common people I must say. The religious leaders were not His favourite people. But we His followers are constantly seeking, desperately breaking our necks to climb the ecclesiastical ladder and have our photograph taken with the new high flying man of God. We would not have approved of Jesus because He publicly excoriated the ‘bishops’ and ‘apostles’ and like of His day for hypocrisy and sundry sins. We excuse ours and put it down to the pressure of ministry. We close ranks against the Scriptures.
He set us a tough act to follow because we want to succeed in ministry by making everybody happy with us; giving them five steps to joy and ten to eternal bliss while lying on your couch watching whatever the flavour of the month is. As for Jesus, He went and said stuff about picking up crosses, losing your life, and loving Him more than father and mother. He even took a swipe at those who care more about the opinion of men than that of God.
Then there was the strange blood business, drinking His blood and eating His flesh; oh of course we understand what He meant by that, or do we? It cost Him some popularity, some people left Him and said ‘can’t take anymore of this stuff, too way out for me’. In fact, it was a major exodus. Then Jesus, rather than tone it down, do a public relations stunt, invite a major prophetic figure to come and stand by Him publicly with a pre-prepared text, simply turned to His disciples and asked if they wanted to leave as well. If only pastors had the gumption of Jesus. Some churches have stopped mentioning the blood; it would seem that it offends some people. Why are we not surprised!
Anyway, bottom line is, reading the gospels you realised that Jesus’ personality would not have suited many of our churches. Of course He was God and had the prerogative to disagree with man; the problem is that He set us an example to follow; and everything He taught, and did, we are meant to practice, teach and do. We are meant to hate hypocrisy, greed, manipulation, selfishness, ostentatious giving, religious tradition that exalts itself above God’s word, and such sundry evil that we holy people and our leaders are prone to.
We are meant to love God above all, give our whole lives to Him. We are meant to love people while not caring that they love and approve of us or not. We are called to disagree, publicly if need be, with wrongdoing, even if it provokes the ire of the powers that be. He modelled purity in the midst of impurity, godliness in the midst of hypocrisy, love in the midst of indifference, strict adherence to God’s law in the midst of moral laxity, and built a ministry by telling the truth. That is the way it began, the way we began …
Counterintuitive, countercultural, hugely successful and profoundly challenging.