Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jesus As A Rebel

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.”  --John 15:18-19

To start with, you should all know that this article is probably not very well organized, due to the fact that I received very short notice on actually being asked to write it, and then being gone the week after being asked, coincidentally also the week before this was due to be published.  So please don’t judge me too harshly. :)  In fact, a friend, on being asked (frantically) for ideas, suggested I keep it short and sweet: “Jesus is Awesome.  The end.”  I figured neither the editor nor you all would appreciate that, and I’d probably get unceremoniously kicked off staff after just having been welcomed back.  (I'm kidding, if you didn't notice.  About being kicked off, that is.  The rest of it?  All very, very true.)  So here is my slightly more-thought-out idea on the topic of Jesus As A Rebel.  …And I may also go slightly off-topic on some of my points, due to my current lack of brain cells… Please forgive me.
As Christians today, we often think of Jesus as the one person in the world who has never sinned.  As I explained to my VBS kiddo’s, that means He didn’t ever do anything wrong.  So why is this article titled “Jesus As A Rebel”?  Well, society’s view of Jesus now is very different than it was when He was actually physically here on earth.  As they say, hindsight is 20/20; we have the advantage of having the Bible to read, where we can get more of an inside look at things and see that Jesus really was following the Law (for definition purposes, “the Law” – which shall be capitalized as such to differentiate between it and other laws – are the laws that God instituted back in the Old Testament to Moses and the Israelites) and never sinning, whereas the Pharisees (the religious authority during Jesus’ time) and the majority of the Jewish population saw Jesus as quite radical – according to their religious ideology, societal norms, and also when placed next to their expectations for a savior.

Over time, the Pharisees had added quite a few “little” laws to the Law instituted by God and held them as equally important, not to mention they held to the very letter of the Law – as can be seen in the passage about The Lord of the Sabbath (or at least, that’s the heading in my Bible) in Matthew 12:1-14, Mark 2:23-3:6, and Luke 6:1-11 where the Pharisee’s “complained” to Jesus about his disciples picking heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath because they were hungry.  “This goes against the Law!” was pretty much their argument.  Jesus’s response?  “Here, take a look at how King David – you know, that guy that you all really look up to? – acted in a similar situation.  He did something probably even more unlawful!  He went into the House of God and he and his men ate bread that was set aside only for the Priests!  And you think what these guys are doing is bad…”  (Okay, so not exactly what He said, but pretty close.)  In that very same passage, just a few verses later, we see Jesus being asked by the Pharisee’s if it was lawful to heal a man on the Sabbath.  I’m sure you can guess His response; “If one of your sheep managed to get itself into a pit, wouldn’t you pull it out, even though it was the Sabbath?  And just so you know, if you say yes, you’re implying that you care more about your sheep than you do about another human being.  And we all know you’re not going to say no, because you really care about your property.  Thinking that through, are you sure you even want to be asking me that?”  The last example (there are tons more!) I’m going to share is the time Jesus “literally ‘turned the tables’” as one of my friends put it.  (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-17, and Luke 19:45-46)  See, it had become perfectly acceptable (encouraged, even) for different booths to be set up just inside the temple where men sold doves and other sacrifices, as well as moneychangers.  None of these were originally intended to be in the Temple and doing business in God’s house was very disrespectful to its actual purpose, so Jesus literally flipped their tables over and kicked them out.  This is, I think, probably the only time in history where there has been a real display of righteous anger by a human being.1 Anyway, as you’ve seen, the whole “doing ‘work’ on the Sabbath” thing didn’t go over very well with the religious community.  Nor did the fact that Jesus was using their own laws and the historical figures they respected to show the flaws in their nitpicky2 laws.  Oh, and did I mention that He claimed to be God?  You can be sure that went over well.

Obviously, Jesus upset many in the religious sect by His apparent disregard for the rules, but He also upset even those who weren’t very interested in religion.  As they saw it, He rebelled even against what was seen as socially acceptable.  He could often be found around those in society that were seen as the “untouchables”3, such as tax collectors (became rich off of charging you more than you actually owed), Samaritans (imposters from during the Babylonian captivity), prostitutes (the horror!), etc.  Oh, and His disciples!  Some of them were fisherman (not the brightest, you know) and at least one was a tax collector!  Can you imagine how they saw it?  Not only did this man who claimed to be God spend much of his time with these horrid people, but many of his closest friends were listed among them!  And some of those “rules” of his… Not retaliating when someone hit you across the face?  Actually turning to let them hit you on the other side of your face?  That was basically asking the other person to attack you!  What kind of crazy guy was this?

Even more than all that, though, Jesus rebelled against the “popular belief” about who the Savior was supposed to be, what he was supposed to be like, and what his purpose was.  See, though Jesus claimed to be God, and subsequently the Savior, He didn’t really act how the Jew’s thought their Savior would.  They expected a military leader who would free them from the Roman’s rule, but instead of ridding in on a warhorse, He came on a donkey – a sign of peace instead of war. (Matthew 21:1-6, Mark 11:1-7, Luke 19:28-35, and Mark 12:12-16)  Not to mention that He was constantly preaching to “love your enemy” and other things that went directly against that idea.  They expected a King, the Son of David, who would lead them after they were free from Rome, but instead, Jesus talked about a kingdom that was not of this earth.

In the end, Jesus was really just a rebel against mankind’s wrong ideas of what a person should act like.  He wasn’t a rebel in the areas where “behavior” really mattered. He upheld all of God’s laws perfectly, set the standard for how Christian’s should treat each other and those around them, and was the perfect Savior – even if He wasn’t quite what everyone expected.

The Comma Queen

1I know that many people would disagree with me, but please notice that I’m simply saying that it’s my opinion, not something I know for sure.
2For those of you who didn’t grow up with a dad who uses crazy phrases like “nitpicky”, it means (according to Dictionary.com) “Adj. Overly critical, especially on trivial matters; focused on only trivial aspects.”  Those of you who already knew and are nodding your head in a bored manner, brownie points to you!
3“Untouchables” is actually a level in India’s caste system – these people are the lowest of the low, given the worst jobs, and everyone else literally refuses to touch them because of how “filthy” they are seen to be.  Technically, they aren’t even a level – they are below even that.


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