The Problem with Jesus

BookBeach2The Jesus who shows up in a bold, fast-paced, Bible reading is remarkably demanding and incredibly delightful.  He overwhelms us both in what he offers and in what he asks for.

The problem is that we’re not ready for it.  So much so that there’s good reason to ask how many followers of Christ actually follow him.  For all who truly meet him the world changes.

Let me offer just a tease of what I mean and then invite you to read for yourself—take any one of the Gospels and read it through in one sitting.  Then see what you think.

First, what is it that we find Jesus offering us?  In a word, everything.  As God’s eternal Son, he has always been with the Father and shares the intimacy and full identity of deity. That means we have “God with us” in every sense possible and the Gospels offer that reality as the bedrock of existence.  In Jesus we meet the source of life—our creator and sustainer.

But mostly he comes to us as revealer: he wants us to know his Father whom he loves and who loves him—and he sends his Spirit to communicate this to us in a Heart-to-heart whisper as we read.

How, in specifics, does this revealing take place?  The Spirit shaped the composition and now uses the story of Jesus to draw us to the Son and to the Father.  The Son’s life story includes his forgiving human sins—something only God does.  His rule over the creation is expressed in his many miracles that show his power over weather, water, demons, food, diseases, and death.  All of which is God-level ministry.

But his point in doing miracles wasn’t to show off his power—though that’s a byproduct—but to reassure his followers that he and the Father are one: Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus, so that when we see Jesus we see the Father.  And this is all communicated by the Spirit to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.  God is the source of everything and he gives himself to us in the Son in a marital bond that allows us to become family.

So far, so good.  Many church people look to Jesus as the ultimate resource: the giver of good stuff.  So we can read a gospel like a miner looking for diamonds amid lots of earth; and we can come away with an ability to ask Jesus to heal us, to help us, to comfort us, and to please us.  We like what he seems to offer.  But, to be honest, he seems not to be very accessible with his miracles these days. It’s a problem we don’t like to talk about.

And this is where the spiritual hill gets very steep.  To know Jesus is to be converted by him, and not to convert him to be our servant and resource. The real problem with Jesus is that he expects to be treated as God and not the other way round!

Let’s recall that sin is any effort to replace God as the lead figure in life: our ambition to “be like God”.  And to the degree that we treat Jesus as our personal resource but refuse to say, “not my will but your will be done”, we miss out on the conversion he wants us to experience.

This is where Gospel reading gets hard.  The problem with Jesus is that he doesn’t care for what the world offers.  He actually hates it.  People who are successful in this world, for instance, are viewed by Jesus as failures—because the dream of being “like God” seems to be working for them when, in fact, their success usually reveals a relative independence from God.

Jesus’ work, by contrast, was mainly among those who were “un-like God”—whose lives were in a state of moral collapse.  Jesus, with an ironic dig towards the “we’re-like-God” crowd, made the point clear: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).

So the problem with Jesus is that he’s not very attractive to people who look in the mirror each morning and find a very attractive person standing before them.  But when we find the moral image of our lives to be unspeakable—something we can’t bear to look at—we start to find a much more attractive Jesus when we read.  He loves us, calls us, and embraces us even when we’re unlovely.

And then he makes us lovely from the inside-out.  What a Savior!

4 Responses to The Problem with Jesus

  1. Gretchen October 8, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    I’m beginning to feel like I talk way too much here, but the posts you all write always seem to create a spark in my heart and mind! :) As I was passing through the Gospels recently in my reading, I was struck by how many times Jesus’ miracles had to do with the healing of those who were blind and deaf. I wonder whether He was trying to make a point to those who saw themselves as religious, but were spiritually blind and deaf, as Isaiah talks about so often. May we, as we look into the mirror of our hearts, have eyes to see and ears to hear, so that instead of seeing ourselves as ultimately attractive, we cry out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” as the tax collector did. Then we can enjoy the One who, as you said, embraces us and loves us even when we are so unlovely.

  2. Ron Frost October 9, 2013 at 2:11 am #

    Thanks for speaking, Gretchen. You always have something to contribute, including this insight that I’d never noticed. It’s intriguing.

    What’s so ironic is that the blindness he heals, with the healing of John 9 in mind, he draws us to share the vision of the man-born-blind: that Jesus is meant to be worshiped. And with that we get to see the symmetry of love: that God loved the world enough to give us everything in Christ; and that in our response to Christ we give everything we are and have back to him in worship and love.

  3. Judy October 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    Thank you both for your responses. I like how Ron explained “the symmetry of love”… I know in my head that Jesus is everything but my response to Him is anything but constant. Yet, seeing God’s love is unchangeable gives my heart encouragement so I can turn, repent and love my Lord again.

    I recently read through Mark noticing like you, Gretchen and Ron, the significance Jesus’ healing of the blind and deaf. The Holy Spirit tugged at my heart guiding me to look into the mirror of truth, and what I saw was a pretty ugly image – I was that blind and deaf person and I need healing. I am so glad that Jesus is so real and does not try to flatter but leads me into God’s pure truth and love. This reminds me the verse in James 1:17. “Every perfect good gift and every perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no shadow due to change.” Thank you, Judy

  4. Ron Frost October 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Yes, Judy, that captures it: God as the gift-giver who gives everything . . . and invites everything from us as our response.

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