Have you ever considered the varied responses to Jesus preaching? Some loved him, others gathered rocks. Some were moved to tears, others to thoughts of retaliation. Does our preaching disturb people? When last did a sermon challenge you to your very core, making you rethink seriously the way you live, act or think? Does faithful preaching entail offending people at times, for their own good?
“Blessed is anyone who doesn’t take offence at me” [Matt 11:2-6 // Lk 7.18-23]. Because this is what Jesus probably did on a regular basis. This blessing is unusual because Jesus must have felt the need to pronounce this blessing as part of his mission and message to encourage those who were taking him at his word and trusting him to be an authentic prophet of YHWH.
I often reflect on Meier’s passage where he writes:
The historical Jesus did threaten, disturb, and infuriate people- from interpreters of the Law through the Jerusalem priestly aristocracy to the Roman prefect who finally tried and crucified him. This emphasis on Jesus’ violent end is not simply a focus imposed on the date by Christian theology. To outsiders like Josephus, Tacitus and Lucian of Samosata, one of the most striking things about Jesus was his crucifixion or execution by Rome. A Jesus whose words and deeds would not alienate people, especially powerful people, is not the historical Jesus. [Meier, A Marginal Jew, 1:177.]
And yet does our proclamation reflect this Jesus? Or have we embraced a nice or liberal Jesus that is just concerned about arbitrary ethics and treating people well? I struggle with these things and how I’m supposed to preach about them. Obviously this leads us into huge hermeneutical questions of how to translate this message from an ancient Jewish Apocalyptic context into our various cultural/philosophical/religious situations. But I wonder if this even crosses our thoughts – proclaiming a Jesus who offends [not just for the sake of it] but because one has understood and is faithful to the message Jesus announced and the allegiance Jesus calls for.
The gospel of Jesus challenged people, it disturbed them, it incited a response.
Is our Jesus too nice and cute, instead of being the revolutionary he was in the gospels? I’m uncomfortable with some of the things Jesus taught and did. Are you? Think on these things, then pray, and if you can, offer some wisdom because this is what I’m struggling with.