I have found myself in the Gospels a lot lately. I am not quite sure why I have stayed here, but I know it started off because I felt like I didn’t know Jesus. I knew and believed his story. I had memorized a lot of his teachings, but I felt like I was missing something. It was almost as if he wasn’t a real person to me. I had read the gospels several times, and to tell you the truth I think I was so consumed with what he was teaching that I missed the man.
As I read today from Mark, Jesus just hit me again and again. Not with his teaching but with his personality. So much so that I was tempted to title this blog entry ‘Jesus the Rebel’ but I knew that title doesn’t do him justice. He wasn’t fighting against an establishment alone. He was doing much more than that.
Through out his entire ministry he refused to be defined. He would not let people lay claim to him, or believe that they understood him. He said things to purposefully confuse people. The leaders of his day asked for a sign to show that he was the chosen one. He refused. They asked him to tell them by what authority he did these things. He refused.
Jesus was often rough, and tough on those who followed him. His disciples kept the children away from him, and he got indignant. They argued about who was the greatest among them, and he lectured them. They asked to be at his right and left hand when the kingdom comes, and he told them they would meet an end similar to his. They started talking about bread after he mentioned the “yeast of the pharisees”, and He chided them for their slowness.
He wasn’t very soft with those who weren’t his disciples either. A gentile woman asked him to heal her daughter, and he was hesitant saying that the “Children(the israelites) need to eat first before anything is given to the Dogs(the gentiles).” She then wowed him by her faith and He did what she asked. The rich young ruler came to him, and Jesus asked him to give up the very thing that would be the most difficult for him part with.
He never seemed to make his teaching easy for his followers to understand. He wasn’t afraid of the hard teachings, and he never tried to soften them or take the edge off. For many of us, we think of love as softening the tough stuff so that they will accept it. But for Jesus when he loved you he was direct and told you the plain, and painful truth.
You know, the thing about Jesus though was that while he didn’t soften his hard teaching he always knew how to comfort those who truly believed. Just after the rich young ruler had walked away, and Jesus had said that it was easier for a “camel to go through the eye of a needle then for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” He looked in the bewildered eyes of his disciples, who just thought he had eliminated them from kingdom, and uttered these words:
“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
Rather than comfort them with the teachings about salvation through faith alone, He urges them to trust God, and to give up everything for him. He ask them to devote their whole selves to Him. This is how Jesus worked over and over again. He pushes us past our understanding, and then ask us to seek him and trust him.
I have never met a man like this, but it leaves me with the feeling that is what God in the flesh would be like. It is the same one who in the Old Testament said “I am that I am” that refused to be placed into a category in the New Testament.