Sunday, January 21, 2007

It amazes me to no end how our culture portrays Jesus. Is He portrayed as the physical incarnation of Truth Himself, with a righteous glory? As One who violently cleaned "house" for His father? As One who challenged the "genealogy" of His ignorant and cowardly opponents? As the one who commanded His followers to purchase weapons for defense, and explained to them that strong men can better defend their homes? As the One who will ride His white horse and with sword in hand and devour the wicked? The One who will condemn the ungodly to eternal damnation in Hell? No. Culture shows Him as the complete opposite.

If culture was an indicator of the character of Christ, He would not have been a Warrior of holiness for His own sake. Instead, He would have been an almost "girly man." A pacifist. Rather than having been a Righteous God on earth, both loving and just, He would have been a ... hippy. Jesus the Flower-Boy. The man of lopsided character.

Sorry, the records we have of Him give an entirely different character sketch. No, He wasn't a hippy. Rather than showing Christ a pacifist in all situations, it shows Him violently resisting in all circumstances, save one -- and that being during a the implementation of his fundamental reason for even coming to earth: to be murdered by mankind for mankind.

Yes, that's right. Jesus was sometimes a pacifist, though less often than not. He often violently responded, and responds now, to the actions of others. Christ was the perfect paradox. The perfect example of "a time for everything."

Jesus: The Temple Cleanser

Towards the beginning of his ministry Jesus unleashed His anger on the hypocrites and greed-filled men within the temple. Not only does He kick them out, He "drives" them out with a whip. Let me say that again. Jesus made a physical whip. And then physically drove them out. Jesus wasn't acting as a pansy. He didn't throw himself in front of the money changers, or at their feet, begging them to leave. He didn't hold protests out in the park. He didn't starve himself making peace signs. He made a whip, rode up on His Harley, and whipped them out. Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. The actual historical account is as follows, recorded in John 2:

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father's house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

Jesus used a whip. On people. That's violence by the man that culture paints as a complete pacifist. Once again, culture got it wrong, because Jesus ain't a hippy.

Jesus: The Gun-Rights Activists

It was nearly time. Christ was already betrayed. He had but a few more hours before a mob would take Him, a man would condemn Him, and mere mortals would mockingly puncture His body and murder Him. But strangely, He turns to His disciples and tells them to purchase swords. Yes, to purchase metal instruments of killing and destruction, just moments before being killed without resisting. Why? As commentator Matthew Henry explains, “The swords were to protect themselves from assassins and robbers.” Even without the historical commentation, the historical record itself is sufficiently obvious:

"35Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered.  36He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."

This isn't the only reference Christ  makes to being armed. Far from it. Christ is even going to use an iron sword to rule all of the  nations on earth with, as recorded in Rev.2:27, 12:5, 19:15, and Psalm 2:9. Jesus isn't afraid of weapons. He's even commanded his disciples to posses them. Jesus ain't a hippy.

Jesus: The Lamb

Just hours after requiring His followers to arm themselves, Christ told Peter to "put away his sword", when Peter attempted to defend Christ. Put away the sword? But Christ had just told him to purchase it for defense against robbers and assassins! What on earth (pun  intended) was He thinking? After the Peter incident, Christ acknowledged that He  could have sent legions of angels to devour His enemies? Why did He not? The answer is, once again, clear by Isaiah 53:

 4 Surely he took up our infirmities
       and carried our sorrows,
       yet we considered him stricken by God,
       smitten by him, and afflicted.

 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
       he was crushed for our iniquities;
       the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
       and by his wounds we are healed.

 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
       each of us has turned to his own way;
       and the LORD has laid on him
       the iniquity of us all.

 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
       yet he did not open his mouth;
       he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
       and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
       so he did not open his mouth.

Christ's purpose for coming to earth was to die a slow and obscene death. To be humbled above all others, for us. For us. It was the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate love, the ultimate action. In order to die, He had to have even the most basic right stripped from Him: the right to defend oneself. It was love incarnated.

Truly the Bible is right: God is love. The beauty found in this idea can never be said enough, nor in a sufficiently adequate manner. It can never be fully explained, it can never be fully understood. We can never fully understand it because of its inherent magnificence.

Ah, what's my point? Am I trying to  convince the world that Jesus was usually a violent man? That Jesus was not always meek? That  Jesus was not always loving? No, of course I'm not. It is the greatest of all tragedies that men attempt to apply one idea to God, one concept, rather than trying to view Him as utter completeness that He is. We try to see Him as being only merciful. Or only non-violent. Or for some, as only violent. I have  news (albeit 2,000-year-old news): God is love -- God is justice. God is  non-violent -- God is violent. God is the most beautiful paradox imaginable, or even unimaginable.

God is God.

2 comments:

Green Tea (HSD) said...

Verses from Ecclesiastes come to mind...

Demosthenes said...

Just a question I hope you could elaborate on: why would being a "girly man" necessarily indicate that Christ had a "lop-sided" character?

~Ganymede