Some days I wonder if I really understand Jesus. I read in the Bible about someone who was so threatening and disturbing that his enemies plotted to kill him as an insurrectionist. To be honest, I usually have a hard time imagining anyone wanting to do something so terrible to Jesus.
Perhaps the most helpful lesson I’ve learned from theologians and Bible scholars today is that our reading of the Bible must lead to a Jesus who was so dangerous and unsettling that some people either wanted him dead, while many others ignored him. The cost had to be so steep that his closest friends ran away from him.
While I think that Jesus does lead us to life, peace, and love, I also find him pointing me to another costly path of discipleship that involves sacrifice and the loss of comfort. Jesus isn’t necessarily out to make my current life better or to give me fulfillment.
If that’s all that Jesus offered, then why did some kill him and others ignore him? While he had plenty of crowds around for his miracles and sermons, those who actually followed him to Jerusalem were quite limited. Even fewer remained while he hung on the cross.
In addition, when some people say they like Jesus, but they don’t like Christians, I’m tempted to say, “I don’t think you’d like Jesus all that much either.”
I understand the sentiment such people voice, but I have to ask: Which Jesus do you like?
We may like the Jesus who was inclusive and gracious, but Jesus was also threatening, demanding, and exclusive. Jesus upset political/nationalistic aspirations, religious traditions, lifestyles, and social orders with his message about God’s coming Kingdom.
As we prepare to celebrate Good Friday and Easter this week, I want to look at some reasons why certain people in the Gospels found Jesus so threatening, while others found him easy to ignore and write off. I hope to look at the Gospel stories by digging into what the people were expecting from a Messiah, what they hoped for in their daily lives in general, and how they interacted with Jesus.
In the process, I hope we can ask tough questions about ourselves, the cost of discipleship, the scope of God’s Kingdom, and the Kingdom’s impact on every facet of our lives: family, work, politics, worship, and society.
I don’t want to assume that I would follow Jesus into the Garden and stand by his side while he hung on the cross. If I do, I may not be ready to count the cost of discipleship, confess my resistance, or receive the grace and forgiveness that he offers to those who repent.
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