For far too long, the version of Jesus that we have told each other about, actually, that we have told EVERYONE about is a loving, happy all the time, pure and even soft human. How could He NOT have been, right? His entire ministry life is about helping people, healing people, teaching people and dying for people. Of course, our imaginative imagery of what He was like to be around averages out to be this even keeled, always positive, always loving, probably always smiling kind of guy. It's a reasonable understanding and ultimately smart choice to make on what the Son of God would have been like. We can sell THAT Jesus! We can attract people to THAT Jesus! We can build quite a large empire/corporation on THAT Jesus. So what are we going to do with all of those things that He said and did that DON'T fit our polished narrative of JUST WHO Jesus was?
We get it, if we are going to follow the example of what it looks like, sounds like and acts like to be a human moving in the right direction at all times, why would we follow someone who was less desirable than saccharin Jesus? Why would we build our life upon a version of Jesus that includes EVERYTHING He said and did, when we could very well cherry pick the moments that Jesus only demonstrated sweetness, kindness, and gentleness (which are all His amazing traits), leaving us with an incomplete portrait of the human Son of the Living God?
It makes us feel better to view Jesus as eternally upbeat, full of energy, always available, always encouraging and the perfect specimen of a human who is God. But Jesus became a human to take on the WHOLE PACKAGE. We read time and again how frustrated He was with the guys He chose to carry on His legacy (Luke 8:24-25). We read how annoyed He was with the temple merchants and the ones who approved turning the temple into a swap meet (John 2:14-17). We read how He spoke bluntly to the ones who needed a shot of TRUTH (Matthew 23). We even read how He spoke to one of His best friends who just tried to offer Him caring loyalty, minus any real wisdom (Matthew 16:23). Another example of this side of His behavior is found in Matthew 12:46-50. When told that His own mother (and family) wanted to see Him He essentially disrespects her position as His matriarch while she was waiting to see Him, His OWN MOTHER! Was He moody? Was He occasionally caught by His emotions? Or is there something to His methodology that WE NEED to understand and begin to live out for the sake of others as well as ourselves?
Luke 12:49-53 (NIV)
"I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
At first glance this scripture requires a double take. The principle behind this tough love concept of familial division, is actually brilliant because it is one of the most effective ways in which to establish healthy, unified relationships with God and our family members. Based upon ancient teachings of the art of war, to divide is to conquer. Simply put, Jesus established a dividing point when He came to this world for the first time. Between old and new testament, between religion and relationship, between law and grace, between death and life, between our soul and our spirit. This healthy division is also seen, not so obviously, in the story of the woman who sought help for her daughter.
Matthew 15:21-28 (LEB)
"And departing from there, Jesus went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold a Kanaanite woman from that district came and cried out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely possessed by a demon!" But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came up and asked Him, saying, "Send her away because she is crying out after us!" But He answered and said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" And He answered and said, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the DOGS!" So she said, "Yes, Lord, for even the DOGS eat the crumbs that fall from the Master's table." Then Jesus answered and SAID TO HER, "Oh woman, your faith is great! Let it be done for you as you want." And her daughter was healed from that hour."
As we can see, it would seem that Jesus was coming across a little bit racist when He said that He came only for the house of Israel; and maybe even a little sexist when He outright called the woman a dog. However, there is a genius to His so called madness. In one moment in time He overthrew His own disciples' racism (being they were all Jews), and surprised everyone by validating the woman, giving her cart blanche on what she was in need of. Just like that! As rough as it may have seemed at first when Jesus referred to the woman as a dog, it was ultimately designed to snap her out of "begging mode" and provoke her to start tapping more so into the faith that brought her there in the first place. He broke through the PC culture of that day in order to help not only His disciples but this woman as well so they could all equally reposition themselves on the right side of their approach to His Father. This approach was not and is not based upon nationalism, sexism or even (and most important) on the mother's emotional tie to her daughter. ALL is based upon FAITH. In effect, Jesus separated His disciples from their racism and the woman from her desperation.
Now look, we know that we are all meant to be people who walk in love at all times, live by faith not by sight and leave the stuff that binds us up far behind. But sometimes love is TOUGH. There are moments when faith must be set LIKE FLINT. And there are some times when in order to obtain freedom, we need a prison BREAK. Just as Jesus demonstrated for us many times while walking on the planet, sticking with THE TRUTH has the potential to look divisive, disrespectful, rude and even a little impolite. As we have said before, when it came to the things that were of great importance, Jesus didn't mess around. How much more do we need to exemplify this side of His persona? A LOT MORE.
Embracing the totality of who Jesus was in EVERY situation that we have documented from His days on earth is how we will be able to draw from the vast reservoir of His nature and character that has been implanted within every one of us, whether or not we realize it yet. In the days in which we are living and those we are heading into, our take away needs to be the understanding of what the bible says, "Greater is He who is within me, than He who is in the world." Greater also means tougher, stronger, fiercer than what we are facing and will face both spiritually and naturally moving forward. We believe that when Jesus went to those rougher, unpolished places He did so because he refused to compromise, tolerate or accept the injustices and the human wreckage that had been strewn around Him. Any time that He was encroached upon by evil, by way of religious institutions or government entities or traps set to ensnare Him; He treated them all as THE LIES THAT THEY WERE by confronting them with the TRUTH, socially polite or not.
Being determined to live in the fullness of what we know of Jesus, as exemplified in the bible will require us to make strong uncompromising decisions that may separate us from some people and unite us with others. The days of playing footsie with our spirituality and making allowances and amendments for anything and everything to fit in, must come to an end. Even though things are getting real interesting and real serious in this first year of the decade, we will not lose our joy because we are born for such a time as this. To clarify, Jesus didn't set out to make enemies or lose friends; these things were a bi-product of His undeterred passionate relationship with His Father and the uncompromising way in which He navigated through the restrictions and obstructions in order to reach the heart of every human that His Father put in His path. Unto us, the baton has been passed.