The Controversial Jesus
This year we're journeying through the gospel of Mark on Sunday mornings, and as of mid March are just starting to read about the words and actions of Jesus in his 3 year ministry. Mark (or 'John Mark', the writer of this account) focusses a little more on the events of Jesus' life and less on his teachings and parables. It's the shortest of the 4 gospel accounts, one that challenges us to simply observe the life of Jesus and consider how our lives might look different if they are modelled after his.
Some of what Jesus did and said may be surprising to us, even (or especially) in the church world, but still quite comforting and reassuring. For example, the fact that Jesus started off not with a bang but walking along the beach taking an interest in some ordinary fisherman reassures me that he's interested in ordinary folk like myself and will choose the least likely for his great purpose. But much of what Jesus did and said is not just surprising, it's controversial. Sometimes, it's downright scandalous!
The chances are that if we are not challenged by the life of Jesus to speak and act in ways that don't feel "right", we may be following Jesus from a distance. Jesus challenged the assumptions of people in his day about marriage, money, the Bible, God, forgiveness, and most importantly himself. I suspect that the differences between the 1st century culture and ours today are not that great, and that Jesus would still be a controversial figure.
But I don't think Jesus is the same kind of controversial figure as various political or cultural commentators in our world today. Jesus is different, whilst the pattern of his life does (or should) make us uncomfortable as he calls us to change, we are simultaneously drawn to him and want to change because we know his heart for us is deep love and compassion. Some may be repelled from Jesus and his followers because of the controversial things he says and does rub them the wrong way, but only if there is no knowledge of his pure motivation of love.
I pray that over the course of this year you will be made uncomfortable by the controversial Jesus and simultaneously be drawn closer to him as you understand his motivation of love in moulding your heart and mind to become more like him.
Grace and Peace,