A Messiah

Jesus is a problem. I’m not being facetious here. He really is a problem. This is basically what the Gospels are about, after all. Jesus is a problem. A problem to King Herod. A problem to his parents. A problem to the Pharisees. A problem to the disciples. A problem to the zealots. A problem to Pilate. After the Gospels, he becomes a problem to the early church and then a problem for later theologians and a problem for historians.

The problem basically boils down to this: Jesus is rarely where we want him to be, often not where we think he should be, doesn’t say what we think he should say, says what we think he shouldn’t say, doesn’t answer questions clearly, and otherwise always is around the sorts of people we don’t think he should be around, doing things we don’t think he should do.

Thinking about the story of the blind man, again, from John 9, I realize how much Jesus was simply his own person, with his own mission. Good Jewish theology talked about the Sabbath, but Jesus didn’t seem to concern himself with such teaching. Good Christian theology says something about how God doesn’t cause evil, but in this passage we have the blind man blind so that at some point in his life God could be manifested through the healing. No doubt, the man, if asked, would have said thanks for the honor, but I’d rather I’d never been blind at all.

I read people asking “What would Jesus do?” in regards to personal choices, or “Who would Jesus bomb?” in regards to questions of war, or “what would Jesus cut?” in regards to budget choices. Often, the question isn’t really a question, it’s rhetorical, as we all are supposed to nod knowingly about how Jesus would pretty much do what we would do, because we know we’re the ones who get him.

Now maybe some of this is informed considerations based on our study or whatever. But even still I’m struck again by the fact that at just about every point Jesus was a problem for just about everyone. He would not stick to a script, toe a standard political line, or even recite standard assumed theology. Just at the point people thought he was on their side, he would do or say something that made following him just plain difficult.

Which makes me realize. Jesus would not, certainly, agree with me. Now maybe on some topics he would, but probably on the topics I would just assume he would agree with me he’d go off and say something that offended me. The key problem is that I don’t know which bits he’d be offensive about, because if I did I’d go ahead and change my opinions right now.

This gets to the point that even as a follower of Jesus I’m probably wrong about where he’d stand on various issues. Of course, for some this sort of talk leads to the sort of Pilatian “What is truth?”

Only it doesn’t. For me, at least. Because there’s a difference between humility and relativism, and this difference comes in the fact that Jesus is, I assert and I confess, truth, who did have his own opinions on issues, and had distinct responses. His opinions aren’t my opinions, however, and when I make the mistake of conflating the two, I can easily run into the major difficulty of believing in a false messiah, a golden calf, a God made in my own image.

Jesus did give us, I think, enough to go on, and didn’t leave the church bereft of the essential teaching so as to get what we’re supposed to be about. Love God, love our neighbor. We’re to orient our lives on these two subjects, prioritizing them even and especially when we don’t particularly like our neighbor, or like God (which is much more common among religious folk than anyone would admit – religious folk are just really good about transferring their dislike of God into other directions and targets).

It’s not that I shouldn’t have an opinion, either. Jesus was highly interactive, even if he remained a problem. He did not dismiss questions, even though he sometimes didn’t respond in a way that answered the particular question. He seeks a relationship, and this means we can and should take risks in coming to terms about who he is, and especially who he is in our own life.

Probably this is why it’s those who were desperate, who had no where else to go, who needed healing and grace the most, who kept up with following him. They were the ones who had been stripped of pride, no longer feeling a need to be right, so they could be much more flexible in following the Jesus who was very much his own man.

Jesus didn’t like, and doesn’t like, being controlled.

But controlling others, attempting to assert our dominance, is at the heart of human behavior, being the very source of just about every sin. We want to dominate. Jesus insists he is, in fact, Lord.

Jesus sometimes asserts his lordship in ways we just don’t plain agree with.

We want the Messiah we want, not the Messiah who is.

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

That’s a problem.

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