Was Jesus A Jerk?

(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?


  1. Larry Who · June 3

    Prophets tend to be jerks to the ones his words cut through their hard hearts like a knife through butter.


  2. T. F. Thompson · June 3

    How about the fact that Jesus NEVER complimented them on either a good thought or for doing something right. He always found them lacking. Yes, I know why and it was so their pride would not rise, but still: he could be hard to hang around with by His standards. A great post.


  3. LoiterLarry · June 3

    I read a post on HuffPost by this same title. The author of that article, Mr. Lose, thinks Jesus’s encounter with the Syrophoenician woman in Mark 7 warrants asking the question. But then he thinks Jesus was just having a bad day and let his better judgment slip a bit – you know – like we all do sometimes.

    What a crock?

    Oh well, kudos for having the nerve to ask the question. Kudos for actually looking at a bit of Scripture. Kudos even for thoughtful analysis before caving to the pressure to find an “easy way out of it”. What’s the point, though, in the end of such an exercise? Lose manages to make Jesus less than God’s anointed, truly human creation. That is not biblical either. But, he makes the HuffPost, which I presume means his opinion, as lousy as it is, is popular.


    My thought is that you are on to something special with your question and your post. The previous comment strikes me as close to the mark. However, I would set the question and that answer in a bit more illuminating context.

    You rightly pointed out that Jesus is not anarchist; his is King. He is the King of creation that has rocked along in rebellion for eons. Ever since the Tower of Babel, the world has sought to order itself either without regard to the Creator or in some rebellious regard to him at the least. So when this rightful King comes to stake his rightful claim, it is going to interrupt the New World Order that is the Old Rebellion. That, by its very nature, is going to offend and trash other agendas. Even if Jesus comes with grace, peace and love – that grace, peace and love is hostile to the wayward world orders on tap already.

    And coming as a humble prophet? Well, that has the look, smell, and feel of a jerk all over it.

    And as for Lose’s concern for the Syrophoenician woman, yes, his epithet is hard on the girl alright. It totally trashes any sense of PRIDE she may or may not have had in that situation. Turns out, her response to it was humble – thus appropriate! His response to her response then had the double effect of humbling the Jews who would have preferred he put her in her place to begin with. So, in the big picture, there was no sting in calling her a dog if she refused to respond in pride. On the other hand, the sting boomeranged around and hit those Jews who would have liked to keep her “a dog”. Their pride now suffers as he heals and grants her request!

    Yeah, that makes him a jerk, if you are proud. It makes him your savior if you are humble. But of course, I sense your point in this post is to call out those who manage to hijack all of that and champion this prophet as if he were “theirs” in some sense in which their pride is served by him. And I think your post brings that corrective lens to bear.

    Good job.

    Liked by 1 person

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