(I would have preferred to entitle this post Was Jesus An A-Hole?, but I figured even leaving out the two s’s would strain too many readers out. I hope you will take my question seriously and meditatively before you have your reflex….)
This seems like an unlikely question coming from a disciple today. I don’t think I ever met a follower of Jesus who suggested he was a jerk – or even questioned it, for that matter. Jesus is just sooooooo holy, right, and good, and none of us could even come close to measuring up. We are the jerks; not him!
Yeah, yeah, yeah…
Have you ever read the Gospels? I mean sit down and read them through sometime. Perhaps one a day for four days. Or all four in one week, if that makes the project more manageable. And really locate yourself vis-à-vis Jesus. I don’t mean locate yourself where you think you should be in the story, but where you really live. Say, as a shopper at the mall vis-à-vis Jesus, as a driver in the HOV lane vis-à-vis Jesus, as a pre-boarding passenger on an airplane vis-à-vis Jesus, or as a stock broker taking a client to lunch at a restaurant with valet parking vis-à-vis Jesus.
Oh… And Jesus in each of these possible scenarios is the Matthew-25 Jesus (the hungry, sick, naked, inmate or vagrant – “least of these”).
Is Jesus a jerk now?
But even if your imagination is so limited you can’t carry through with this exercise, still, read the Gospels and watch what happens. This peasant Jew (who in Mark seems to blow in off the desert, in Matthew and Luke seems to be born to a peasant family from the other side of the tracks telling bizarre tales of how this teen pregnancy came to be, or who in John seems to burst into the world in some hifalutin poetic/theological mystic language like NO ONE talks anywhere else), any way, this peasant Jew shows up, picks a handful of smelly friends from the docks and the tax office to follow him around while he goes to church, to parties, to his hideout in the mountains, and then picks a fight with church leaders when he flips tables there, gets arrested, and finally executed.
Honestly, do you hang around ANYBODY like that?
So sitting there in the airport waiting for the plane to board, you are following THIS guy?
N.T. Wright published a comment once saying, “Where ever St. Paul went, they had a riot; where ever I go, they serve tea”. (I think he was quoting someone else, but he made the quote famous.) And Jonathan Storment was so moved by the quote, he wrote a great little book, I highly recommend, called How To Start A Riot. Both Wright and Storment suggest that following this Jesus leads to trouble, not smooth sailing.
So why are we Christians so agreeable to every wind of consumerism that blows along?
Look, I am not advocating recklessness here. Jesus is not an anarchist; he is the King! But his exchange with “religious leaders” (as we like to call them) does not go smoothly in hardly any story the Gospels portray. His interaction with political leaders ain’t much better. In Luke 14 we see a Jesus who gets invited to a party, but once he arrives he starts picking on the other guests for how/where they choose to sit!
Did you catch that? This uppity peasant manages to swing an invitation to your power lunch between stock broker and client, and the homeless guy you brought into this deal picks on the guests for the seating arrangement!
Are you sure Jesus is not a JERK?
And just when he gets the guests picked on, he starts picking on the host! Why do you invite all your important friends? Next time you throw a party, invite the poor, the lame, the blind….!
This Jesus, after picking on the guests, totally hijacks the party and picks on the host now too. And I really gotta say, that if 99.9 percent of my readers had been guests there that day, they would be thinking that Frank, here, should NOT have invited this guy to come! We were partying just fine without him! Who let this jerk in???
You aren’t going to read that last question there in the text. But IF YOU HAD BEEN THERE, I guarantee it would have run through your mind. NONE of these guests at that party are sitting there thinking to themselves, “Wow! This guy makes sense. I should not take the proud seat, and Frank should not have invited me anyway; he should have invited some homeless bums instead!” If they had, they would not have crucified Jesus just 9 chapters later!
You don’t get crucified by “knowing your place”! You get crucified when you are a jerk.
So… Was Jesus a JERK?