ƒ Christianity for Thinking People: Jesus Mean and Wild

Friday, May 23, 2008

Jesus Mean and Wild

I used to wrestle in high school. And those wrestling matches were some of the most physically intense experiences of my life. No other sport that I have played quite compares to the intensity of a wrestling match in which constant pressure must be exercised against one's opponent. Every muscle is fully engaged and pushed to the limit if you are doing it right. The only match that didn't leave me completely exhausted was one that almost killed me when I was pinned in the first 10 seconds by a three-hundred pound dude that fell right on my chest!

That experience came back to my mind this week as I meditated on the intensity of Jesus' life experiences. Obviously there are many levels on which Jesus' life was very demanding. The man travelled hundreds, if not thousands of miles, on foot in extremely high temperatures! And his attitude reflected the toughness characteristic of such a hard lifestyle when he commented on John the baptist, "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? No, those who wear soft clothes are in kings' palaces" (Matt. 11.7-8). That dialogue is worthy of a line in a Clint Eastwood movie. Jesus and John were not soft men in soft clothes saying soft and soothing things! They were rough and tumble prophets, men hardened by tough circumstances. They were willing to stand up and speak out against the religious and political powers that were grinding the poor and oppressed in the dust!

Consider the following texts:

1.) "Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him." (Mark 1.12-13)

Jesus led a Spirit-driven life. And the Spirit will not be controlled by the human demand for comfort and convenience. It is a dangerous thing to pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit! The Spirit will drive us right into the ring where we will be forced to confront the powers of oppression and injustice in our world. Such a life may be difficult but it will be far more meaningful and rewarding than the easy way of just "going along" to "get along."

2.) "In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house." (Mark 3.27)

Jesus came into the world to bind the "strong man," that symbol of all tyrannical power, whether it be religious or political. Jesus' life was difficult because he challenged the authority of every power that diminished and demeaned human beings. He angered the rich, strong and powerful because he stood up for the poor, weak and powerless. More than that Jesus actually empowered the poor, weak and powerless which undermined the ability of those in power to control them! An example of this is Jesus' teaching that the "Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath." The Sabbath command is not a means to dominate and control human beings, although that is how it was interpreted and used by the Jewish religious elites (and many since them have done the same!). Rather the Sabbath is a divine law that actually serves human need, and human need takes precedence over Sabbath law. Now that is truly revolutionary!

3.) "And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8.31-33)

Jesus rejected every attempt to divert him from the extraordinary difficulty of his mission. Jesus even called one of his own disciples "Satan" when he (Peter, of course) suggested that Jesus would not have to die. Here again, just like in the wilderness with the great tempter, Jesus rejects the offer of imperial power. He rejects the path toward domination over others and chooses instead the path of service for others. And that choice and the iron will that carried it out ultimately established the Kingdom of God over the Domination System!

Jesus' life was intense because of the tension created by the incredible conflict in which he was engaged. As the bearer of the Kingdom of God he was engaged in nothing less than a jihad against the religious and imperial powers of his day. The only place that Jesus seemed to get any relief from this struggle was in the company of those that lived under the boot of the beast. Jesus enjoyed many parties in the presence of such people!

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