Sunday, February 17, 2013

Consider the Cross Day 4

If you had to use the first word that came to mind to describe Jesus, what would it be? 

I think if I am not coloring this answer with truths I know from Scripture, I might first think something like soft. Meek. Gentle. These may be leftover vestiges of seeing images of a very light-skinned Jesus cuddling lambs or children. And he was gentle, kind, and meek.

He also riled crowds up to the point that they wanted to stone him. He taught difficult things that lost him followers. And he turned over tables in the temple.

Often he wasn't soft, but spiky. This is the Jesus that makes us uncomfortable, and we see a lot of this Jesus in the last week of his life. He is often troubled in spirit, weeping for others and for his own suffering. He also speaks often of judgment and uncomfortable subjects. These are the passages that maybe you, like me, sort of ignore or at least don't put in the forefront when we think of who Jesus was.

Yet these passages are there. What do we do with them? Why are they there? Let's look a little deeper.

In Matthew 21:12-17 when Jesus enters the temple courts and drives out the money changers, he was not fueled by frustration or annoyance in the way that we might shake our fists or cluck our mutter under our breath about someone driving like an idiot on the freeway. There was more to this story than the moneychangers cheating people in God's house, which is what I always assumed. (And which may be true.)

These tables were in the only area of the temple that the Gentiles (non-Jewish peoples) could enter for worship. Whether or not the sellers were being honest and selling animals for sacrifice at a fair price, their very presence was crowding out worship.

Jesus had seemingly endless patience for those who came to him in need, knowing their own sin or weakness or sickness. Jesus was harshest with those who were proud in spirit and thought they had their lives together or had all the answers.

Jesus built bridges and also tore down barriers keeping people from God. He did both on the cross--building a bridge of reconciliation between us and God. Breaking down the barrier of sin by paying the penalty we owe on the cross. At his death, the curtain temple--a symbol of the separation between man's presence and God's presence--was torn in two.

Though this passage may show the spikier side of Jesus, he was still demonstrating love. Jesus was both soft and spiky, but always fully God. Perfect in every way. When we are seeing only one side of Jesus, we reduce him to those simple images hung in Sunday school classrooms.

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