Many of us have a rather narrow view of Jesus. We have fallen in love with this Jesus who loved us unconditionally, courageously shouldered our sins on the cross, and tenderly comforts us in our sorrows, But I have to say, a detailed reading of the Gospels reveals a different side of Jesus that many of us would be uncomfortable with.
The disciples faced a similar dilemma. They had left all to follow this Jesus who healed the sick, cast out demons, and awed the crowds with his teaching. But one day the Pharisees asked him an “innocent” question about why the disciples didn’t wash their hands before they ate. Now this new image of Jesus emerges (Matt 15:12-14). He directly challenged the Pharisees about preferring their own traditions over obeying God’s commands. He called them hypocrites to their face and quoted an Old Testament passage that stripped away the pretentious outward religious trappings and exposed the vanity of their hearts and teaching. And then he calmly walked away and addressed the crowds about the same issue.
Needless to say, the Pharisees were offended. Surprise! The puzzled disciples came to Jesus with their question, “Did you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” Maybe they thought Jesus didn’t notice the Pharisees’ reaction. I actually think they were shocked by Jesus’ approach. Why would he address the Pharisees in such an offensive way?
Lest we quickly jump to hammering the disciples, let’s picture Jesus doing this in 2010. Imagine Jesus going up to a political leader and directly challenging him on his public decisions and using Scripture to expose the rottenness of his heart attitudes. As Jesus’ coworker would you feel like hiding in the shadows or would you also like to question Jesus about his approach. Isn’t there a way he could be more subtle? After all we are called to be peacemakers. People won’t listen to us if we offend them?
I love how Jesus responded to the disciples’ question. Jesus was not ignorant of the Pharisees’ reaction, but neither did he take offense at their negative reaction. Jesus had not been speaking his personal opinion so he did not take their offense personally! He clearly left the judging to God. He calmly told his disciples that God would pluck any weeds that needed picking. (When’s the last time you said that?) He also told the disciples to let the Pharisees be. And that is just what Jesus modeled. He sensed and knew the reaction and just moved on to the next event.
I have to say that I’m much more comfortable with following and imitating the loving Jesus I’m familiar with. And I so much long to teach like him. This picture of Jesus is downright scary, but just as valid as tender baby Jesus in a manger and Jesus’ gentle touch on a toddler. So my question – how will I follow this Jesus I read about today? My first challenge is to be ready and willing to be confrontative if necessary and be so in touch with God that I know when gentle compassion is necessary and when bold truth is required. I also need to avoid speaking my own opinions that require personal defense and end in personal offense. I can courageously speak God’s Word with boldness, knowing that God will defend his own word. I want to learn to leave situations and attendant emotions to move onto the next event with confidence. And finally, I want to live life intentionally as Jesus did and be able to clearly explain my actions from God’s perspective. This Jesus I love.