The Jesus No One Wants to Talk About

Lonely JesusWe like Jesus. For some that’s too mild of a statement. We love Jesus. We especially love the Jesus who steps in on time, the One who comes to our rescue. We love that Jesus so much we even write songs about Him. Jesus on the main line tell Him what you want…

Nothing compares to the hope one can derive from knowing that Jesus cares. Through the deepest night of despair there is always the confidence that comes from believing that Jesus is with us and will see us through. We want that Jesus.

We also want the Jesus who will fight our battles for us. The text “vengeance is mine” has kept the sanity of many a believer. As we navigate through life we need a shield before us and behind us and no one can do that better than Jesus. We want that Jesus.

We especially want the Jesus that brings forgiveness to our guilty consciences. Lifting the burden of guilt that crushes our souls is a miracle in itself. Regardless of our past we have the promise of forgiveness to those who ask for it. We want that Jesus.

But there is a Jesus we don’t want. We never talk about this Jesus. He’s like that embarrassing relative we want no one to know of. It’s the Jesus that walks the narrow road and who goes against the grain of our lives and against the currents of society. We’re not the first to disown this Jesus but we may be of the generation who ignore Him at the greatest peril.

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:38

This Jesus showed Himself most clearly during a difficult time in history. The chosen nation, through myriad moral failures, was now in bondage to another nation. The tensions between the government and the people, especially the Jews, were volatile and ongoing.

Appearing on the scene came a man named John the Baptist. He was a unique man who had a calling in life that put him at odds with many who were in power. Whether religious rulers or members of the government, John called out to all the need to repent.

So powerful were his words that people came from all around to hear him. His words were driven home by the power of God and many were convicted and made right with God through his preaching. John was so highly regarded that even Jesus came to him to be baptized. The humble John was actually a legend in his own time.

As the Bible records, John was eventually arrested. As he languished in captivity John sent word to Jesus via his trusted disciples. Without doubt it had to be suggested to John that certainly, if Jesus was who everyone claimed He was, He would make it possible for John to be released from prison. If He was indeed the Messiah, the soon to be King of Israel, surely He could rectify this injustice.

The gospel records the unexpected response Jesus gave to the inquiring disciples.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Matthew 11:4-6

Tell John that the work I am doing to lift fallen humanity and to restore man back to a proper relationship with God is the greatest evidence of who I am that one could be given.

No attempt was made by Jesus to free John from prison. This was not because he did not value John. As a matter of fact you will find more words of affirmation given about John by Jesus than for anyone else. He valued John, but to engage and correct the government of the land, which was full of abuse and injustice, was not the mission of Jesus. This is the Jesus we don’t want.

To make the situation even worse, John the Baptist was eventually murdered by King Herod. I can only imagine that it had the impact upon the masses as the martyrdom of the significant individuals of our respective societies. For my generation this would be like the late Dr. Martin Luther King being murdered while in custody by the government and no excuse or apology given. This was huge.

As a natural reaction, all eyes turned to Jesus. What would He say or do about this blatant injustice? Would he speak against the lengthy record of travesties performed by the governing body? Would He rally the people together to pressure a change in the methodologies and practices of the government? No, He did not.

This is where we begin to part ways with this Jesus. Without any effort on our part we can recall a list of brave individuals who, at the peril of their own lives, effected change in government that has bettered society. That is indisputable. Men and women have been called to play roles in history that paved the way for the freedoms many of us enjoy today.

That fact alone makes it hard for us to embrace this non-activist Jesus. We have a difficult time understanding how on one hand we are to do for the least of these and the other hand find an example in Jesus on how to deal with social injustices that lay at the feet of the government.

We would find it hard to defend Jesus non-involvement in civil reforms relating to government abuses were it not for His relentless labor doing His Father’s work. From rising early to pray with God to healing entire villages of their sick, Jesus worked. He raised the dead, gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. He brought hope and courage to the downtrodden and forgotten. He forgave sins and lifted the heavy burdens of guilt and shame. Jesus changed lives every day. Not some days or on occasion, but each and every day He worked to reclaim man back to God.

As a defender of the scorned and disenfranchised, Jesus was the ultimate champion. Man-made barriers of race, social standing and religious dogma were shattered by Jesus. Hypocrisy dressed in the garb of religious piety was exposed for what it really was – graves full of dead men’s bones. He related and responded to the real needs of the people. There was a valid reason why the Bible records “the common people heard him gladly.” Mark 12:37

But what about the murdered John. The answer is best given by using the actual words of Jesus. He is now standing before Pilate after enduring a kangaroo court by His own people. Pilate knows this is no ordinary man and he asked Jesus if He was King of the Jews. Jesus’ answer is profound and worth our serious contemplation.

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36

That’s not the Jesus we want. That’s not the Jesus we embrace in times of social outrage and shock. That’s not the Jesus who leads us when the injustices of government weigh down upon the masses. We don’t want that Jesus.

We want a Jesus that leads the charge against social injustice committed by those who govern. We want a Jesus that will give voice to our justified outrage. We want a Jesus who demands justice and leaves no stone unturned in holding the guilty accountable.

But maybe the argument can be made that in this particular case, Jesus does not have to serve as our example. Perhaps there is a uniqueness about the mission of Jesus that singularly prevented Him from engaging in civil reforms. Maybe we should look a little lower for our example.

Paul, the most prolific writer of the New Testament, offers godly advice in many areas of life. He launched church after church and traveled extensively throughout the region. His mission to the Gentiles put him into close proximity with those who had a different life experience than those of the Jewish nation.

As we search through his writings the theme that rises to the top is something he said while in Athens. This great city was the center of heathendom. Along with a population of highly intelligent people, idolatry was a way of life. We would be correct in our assumption that there were injustices and crimes committed by those in power.

Yet Paul, with his gift of oratory and his keen intellect fails to ever mention social injustices committed by those in power, particularly the need for civil reforms. Even while on his own journey to his ultimate demise, we find Paul silent regarding the corrupt system of government that existed. What He did talk about was the saving of the lost and the revealing of the redeeming Christ to those hopelessly lost in sin.

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

Like Christ, Paul had a laser focus on his mission in life. His efforts were all put towards that end. His life was completely dedicated to the Savior he met on the Road to Damascus. And Paul too leaves us an example of our priorities in life.

Neither Christ nor Paul’s example discounts the validity of the grievances many have against those in power. There are absolutely unconscionable injustices perpetrated on the powerless by those in power today just as there were during the days of Christ and Paul. This is not a matter of burying one’s head in the sand.

Nor does their example suggest that the people should not take advantage of all rights and privileges afforded to them including the ballot box. But their example does point us to the real cure for the evilness of man – the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

This world, as it is today, is not our final home. Like Abraham of old, we must look beyond today.

For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Hebrews 11:10

 

My questions:

How applicable are the examples of Jesus and Paul when confronted with injustice and the lack of accountability by those in power?

What should our conversation be during times of crisis and controversy, especially related to the racial divide that plagues our land?

One Lawgiver and Judge – Lesson 9

gavel-300x204I thought that I would focus this week on the “not judging” part of the One Lawgiver and Judge lesson. After all, the phrase “judge not” is probably one of the most oft quoted and misquoted Bible verses of our generation. It sometimes serves as our “get out of jail free” card.

The discerning of right and wrong, good and evil has been blurred by the misapplication of the phrase “judge not.” The Bible is full of examples of those who called out sin. Remember the work of John the Baptist? Even James, who chides the church for judging, did not shy away from calling wrong what it was – wrong. Listen to the following:

“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4

“Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8

From James’s own words it’s clear that not judging others is not to be interpreted as an excuse to take a pass on the discerning and stating of what is right or wrong. And just as importantly, it cannot be used as a shield to protect ourselves from being held accountable for our own actions and conduct.

Taming the Tongue – Lesson 7

Taming the TongueToday, as I write this week’s thoughts on Taming the Tongue, an assorted group of scientist have successfully landed a spacecraft on a comet. This historic achievement that cost well over 1 billion dollars is part of an ongoing attempt to discover the origins of life. Some hope that contained within the elements gathered by this machine, will be clues to man’s origin. It has to be more than God speaking.

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm. Psalm 33:8-9

To those that believe, the words of Jesus are more than just vibrations of air that produce sound. His words contain unborrowed life and limitless power.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Hebrews 11:3

Love and the Law – Lesson 5

Finding interesting thingsIt is called Bigfoot – a huge ape-like creature that some believe inhabits forests in North America. For many years there have been supposed sightings. People claim to have personally seen this mysterious creature and found evidence, such as large unusual footprints. Even though most of the supposed sightings and gathered evidence have been proven to be hoaxes, people still believe. As you read this, someone is likely hunting for Bigfoot.

I thought about the search for Bigfoot when I read this familiar line from this week’s Sabbath school lesson on Love and the Law“we are to love even those we don’t like.” I’ve heard this expression many times over the years but like the search for Bigfoot, I’ve yet to find the biblical evidence of that position.

Enduring Temptation – Lesson 3

squirrel (300x249)For the last two weeks I have been engaged in a war of wills with a family of squirrels. Those cute little creatures always scampering about my yard had now become my opponents. Unbeknownst to me these creatures had taken up residence in my house.

My wife had suggested some time ago that there could be critters in the attic. I assured her that was not the case as I could see no evidence of that. But over time I too became convinced that something was scratching in the walls of our house.

I engaged a wildlife trapping company who came out for a week in an attempt to capture and relocate these uninvited guests.  That endeavor failed and I was back where I started – squirrels in my house.

The Perfecting of Our Faith – Lesson 2

pvtv_logoNow Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself. Genesis 18:11-12

Sarah had just overheard Abraham being told again that his wife would bear him a son. It was humanly impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have a child. Although firm believers in God, this promise was more than they could take in.

Their reaction to the promise of God was quite similar to ours when we hear the word “perfection.” Our disbelief in the idea that man, even through divine power, can live a life above sin, being spiritually mature and totally submitted to God, makes us laugh within.

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 1 Peter 1:15-16

James, the Lord’s Brother – Lesson 1

pvtv_logoI have thought a lot about James over the last week. The discussions about his identity have been interesting. The evidence seems to support the view that James was actually a brother of Jesus, although no one can say with 100% certainty that he was.

As a leader of the early church, James distinguished himself as a man of wisdom. There’s ample proof that he was highly thought of.

Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.” Acts 12:16-17

What I find most interesting about James is how he described himself. He makes no mention of his bloodline, if he indeed was a half-sibling of Christ.

Nor did James describe himself by any accomplishments made in life. No mention does he make of his education or his business acumen. No mention is made of positions of importance that he may have held previous to the writing of his letter. He presents no human credentials to give authority and legitimacy to his words. James identifies himself as simply a slave.

That’s When

Dying Thief

Death and Resurrection – Lesson 12

TombThen said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. John 11:14

Lazarus’s sisters were crushed. The brother who they loved so much had been taken away from them by the cruel enemy called Death. They had sent word to Jesus that He was sick, knowing that if Jesus could get to Lazarus quickly, he would not die. But hours turned into days and Lazarus died.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. John 11:5

After Jesus finally arrived back to Judaea, Martha poured out her heart to Him. Her confidence in His power was unshaken but in her grief she could not grasp the deep purposes of God.

The Sabbath – Lesson 11

SunsetAnd He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

We need the Sabbath. I am not primarily talking about a period of down time from our busy lives, although the Sabbath affords that. Our need of the Sabbath is deeper than mere rest. We need the Sabbath for our salvation.

The Sabbath reminds us that there is a God who created all things. Those sacred hours provide the time to turn our attention to His mighty creation. Our world, though marred by sin, still serves as a lesson book about the God we serve.

We see the beauty of His creation from the lowly flower full of intricate details to the lofty mountains that tower to the heavens. In each we see the hand of God. We read in nature’s pages the care and concern He has for us and we find assurance and contentment as we reaffirm each week who it is that controls our lives.

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:28-30