The Jesus Character: So Good It Makes People Crucify You
Offensive as a Stumbling Block
For years the church taught us that we're supposed to be kind to people. So, we'd be so polite and kind. We were taught not to be offensive and never to be a stumbling block. But later, as I became serious with Jesus, I discovered something else. Jesus was a stumbling block and he was offensive, though he was kind, too.
In fact, his was a life and ministry of being a stumbling block. "The stone which the builders rejected has become the Capstone...a stone that causes men to stumble and fall," says Peter. What does that mean?
As I watched Jesus in Scriptures, I saw how he actually operated. For instance, he called the religious leaders of his time "brood of vipers," "blind guides," "hypocrites," and even asked his disciples, "Are you so dull? He broke the Sabbath and the traditions of the elders. He spat on people's eyes. He ate with unwashed hands. He touched the sick and leprous, and talked to a Samaritan woman, which were a definite no-no in his day!
So where do we put the things they teach us in church about being kind and polite and decent and nice? And to us preachers, how do we reconcile our concern for ethical preaching with Jesus' style of radical and stumbling-block preaching?
How do you go against the tide? I think this is vital because Jesus seemed to have done nothing else but just that. He proved to one and all that God's thoughts and ways were higher than men's, even biblical men of his time. And he did it with astonishing defiance--something that didn't look anything of the kindness and politeness we have in church today.
We know that the bible teaches us to be gentle, loving, considerate, and not to be quarrelsome. Yes Jesus was all of the above--plus more. He was not only tame, he could also be so wild as to drive out sellers from the temple courts with stunning force. He could be fearsome at times, not just fearless.
There are pastors and Christian radio announcers who sound ridiculously soft, trying perhaps to be too kind and polite to their audience. We have been brain-washed to believe that Jesus was like that, with the result of sometimes making some of us act, look, and sound like we're too soft. And we project to the world that the Jesus character is like that. Some men mistake meekness for femininity.
Not only that. Weren't we preachers taught to explain Sunday worship messages to the level of the people? They say we must never talk above people's heads. Or, we must make sure that people understand what we're saying, and to say it with a spice of interest. Well, not my Jesus. He talked in parables that the people didn't understand. And he did it intentionally.
Hence, one day, the disciples almost complained: "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" In other words, "Hey, why not just talk to them plainly. That way, they'd understand the message, join us, make our ministry big, and then we'll live happily ever after. Besides, talking to them in a way they won't understand wastes time."
Weren't we preachers taught that Jesus used illustrations (the parables) to further clarify his messages, and that we should do likewise? Hence, preachers have been using illustrations and stories ever since--to clarify and make the audience understand and keep them entertained and come back for the next service. We've become that dull and silly to think that parables were meant to make people understand more clearly and be entertained.
Nope. Parables were intentionally used by the Master to confuse and bore people so that they wouldn't understand--even harden their hearts, says Scripture. "Those who don't have, what little they do have will be taken away." The disciples themselves saw that the parables had that effect--people listened and listened but got nothing out of them. In fact, they themselves didn't understand. So after the sermons, they had to stay behind and ask Jesus for meanings. And he told them, the secrets of the Kingdom were given to them (disciples) but not to the people. Now, what kind of preaching is that? Why the partiality? Why preach to the people at all?
You see, parables were designed to confuse and bore people. Denominational preachers misread that terribly today. As a result, quite a number of preachers act like clowns behind pulpits trying to make their parable-illustrations entertaining. Some are nothing but stand-up comedians. Most take pains to over-explain. Why do they do this? Because they want to please and attract. And they're too careful never to offend anyone or leave them confused.
Is their style effective? Oh yes! It builds mega churches! People understand exactly what is being said, accept the Lord, and get "saved" and be part of the church--and yet not know what and who Jesus is all about and what exactly he wants. They don't have a hint of what role the Jesus character plays in the lives of believers, which is to lose our lives. "He who loses his life for me will find it."
Jesus was never "nice" to his audience, in the sense that the world uses the word. He was even rude, at least to a mortal's eyes, that is. Like, comparing a Canaanite woman once to a dog. Well, theology experts say it was the order of the day--calling pagans dogs by the Israelites. But, I wonder, why let himself be influenced by culture, especially one that seemed to offend people?
But, believe it or not, such attitude of Jesus was really an expression of God's love. For Jesus could not express any other attitude or character other than love. For God is love. And he was (and is) God. Some might ask, "Insinuate that someone is a dog--that's love?" As I have said, I myself wonder. He even hinted Peter as Satan. He called Herod "that fox." So you Jesus believers, better know your Master well and intimately before you declare to the world that you are his follower. Still wonder why the epitome of pure and unconditional love was crucified?
Jesus never ran after people for his church membership. If you'd see him then, you might take him to be a snobbish and ultra proud person. When his disciples were offended at his teachings, he merely watched them leave him, as if throwing open the doors for them to go look for another man to follow or church to attend. And to the disciples who remained, he dared them also to leave. He didn't care if all of them left. That's a far cry from what pastors do today. They're held hostage by membership issues--the devil's most effective scare tactic against them.
Remember the rich, young ruler? Jesus just watched him leave, probably shaking his head and saying, "Tsk, tsk, it's impossible for the rich to enter heaven." Imagine if you have a pastor with an attitude like that. And mind you--letting a potential tither just go out the door, without even engaging him in a counseling session or home visitation? Church people are sure to kick Pastor Jesus out of church today, pronto!
And do you know what he told Nicodemus? "You're a teacher of national reputation and yet you don't know about what I'm talking about?" Now, that's no way for a mere poor carpenter to talk to a Pharisee! Can you imagine a common poor folk talking to a denominational bishop or mission director or pope like that? And how about calling Herod, the king, the president as it were, a "fox"? How would you like to be called a white-washed tomb full of dead men's bones?
The problem today is that, the church just wants to project the "acceptable" side of Jesus to the world. They run after people to get the church membership huge, so they don't present 100 percent of Jesus. It's like commercial ads--advertisers will never tell you the side effects of their products. Does Jesus have a side effect? To those who wouldn't present him completely, yes, he has. His tough traits are the side effects. Just look at how Jesus' ministry was never government recognized. Not even the Acts church was. They stood firm on that toughness because they knew that the moment the church got government recognition, it will become powerless, merely riding on the whims of the world. Like what happened in Constantine's time.
Hey, ever noticed how the church celebrates father's and mother's day as the world dictates it to? A whole church program would be devoted to that. These churches are world-led, not Spirit-led. Why do they do this? To please the world and get more membership. They can't imagine having nothing with what the world celebrates!
Well, there are naturally rude and mean and difficult people who get a kick out of being cruel to others and seeing people panic like crazy whenever they're giving orders and throwing their weights around. Believers are not to be like them, of course. Jesus was not like that. The bible is replete with accounts of his mercy and gentleness with people, especially the poor and lowly who come to him. "In him was truth and grace." And yet, Jesus was crucified--murdered by the very people he loved. That's the kind of love and meekness and gentleness God wants us to have--the kind that prods persecution. Do we intentionally make people react violently against us? Nope. Just live the love and character of Jesus and see what happens.
There's more to the Jesus character than meets the eye. And definitely, it is not what denominational people would have us believe--that he was Mr. Nice Guy. So, how do you get the genuine Jesus character? You can't get it, except that you totally deny self and ego and let Jesus live your life. There's no formula. There's only a life to live.
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