We have been hammered in the daily readings this past week with scriptures that pose Jesus as the misunderstood prophet. Everyone he encounters appears to be against him. He worries his family, challenges religious leaders, upends the prevailing decorum, and startles his closest friends.
His family thought him out of his mind. The Pharisees called him a false prophet and then consorted with the Herodians to have him killed. The Scribes calculated that he was a demon under the power of Satan and sought to distance the followers from Jesus. Jesus’ own apostles considered him suicidal when he spoke of his coming death.
The disciples murmured among themselves about Jesus. They were confused about how to handle the consequences of each charge. Who could stand up against complete repudiation? Practically every element of society pictured Jesus as either a threat, a revolutionary, or a danger to himself.
Image by Lisa Moore
Jesus’ answers to these charges, from the point of view of his accusers, did little to assuage his guilt. Jesus cared nothing for social graces when confronted with bullies, worry-warts, and intellectual riddles.
To the Pharisees, Jesus appeared to flaunt his miracles. “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”
In the Scribe’s statement that “He has an unclean spirit,” Jesus dropped a wet blanket upon their heads.
“Amen, I say to you, all sins and all blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”
His family traveled from Nazareth to seize Jesus. They were worried about his mental state. All they got for their trouble was a strong poke in the ribs. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?” (Mark 3:32-33)
Peter’s quick security guard response — “I’ll never let that happen!” — to Jesus’ prediction of his death fared even worse. “Get behind me, Satan.”
And most confusing, Jesus knowingly appointed the ultimate witness for his prosecution as one of his apostles. He accepted a “kiss” from Judas, allowed for his torture, bowed to emasculation, and bent into his crucifixion.
Each difficulty that social or power structures had with Jesus, though, confirmed a reality all of us grasp only when reviewing the full picture. Within the framework of all those he engaged, we either believe the divine consequences of his resurrection or we disregard them as false.
To disregard what came after Jesus’ death, Jesus was just a fool, a grandiose narcissist intent on challenging the “system,” but affecting no real change. We can give him a “Nice try,” and even cherry-pick his aphorisms, parables, and teachings for posterity. But his frightful death, tears that God take away the “cup,” and final cry that God abandoned him, all mount up to a wasted death.
Many of those he rebuked and chastised certainly saw his life and death in this way.
Believers review each and every rebuke by Jesus through a filter of God incarnate. This is God speaking to twisted logic, misconstrued agendas, fretful frailties, and inconsolable grief. Only God could speak this way, we know.
To grief, Jesus rose people from the dead. To circular logic, he pulled apart the errors. To power agendas, Jesus identified himself as the God they needed to know.
In Jesus' resurrection and subsequent realignment of his followers over a 40-day celebration that conquered death, the believers were convinced. Next, he ascended while they watched, and they were each transformed as his temples of the Holy Spirit. Nothing would ever be the same again. Nobody needs to be confused about what Jesus did. He explains everything to us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in gathering us together and actively using us to awaken the world.
But [Jesus} said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers? And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
He wasn't nuts or narcissist. That wasn't snark and bravado he offered. That was eternal life.
He's brother, king, redeemer, God, and man.