Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On the Road and In Your Face

Over the course of my life I have heard people talk about the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. Jehovah is the angry, condemning one and Jesus is the loving, forgiving one. They will say, "I can't believe in that mean old man pointing his finger and sending people to Hell, but I think Jesus was a good guy and he said we shouldn't judge anyone."

I'm afraid I have good news and bad news for these people. There is only one God and his nature doesn't change. Anyone who hasn't seen the loving, forgiving God of the Old Testament hasn't thought about what they've read. Those who haven't sometimes seen an angry and condemning Jesus haven't either. This is bad news because they are wrong about God; it's good news because He will forgive them if they realize it.

Jesus was not a flower child. He was not handing out happy pills and saying, "Can't we all just get along?" He did not say to the adulterous woman, who the Pharisees wished to stone, "Go and do what you please. Be happy." He didn't even say, "I forgive you." He said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more."

When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. John 8:10-11 (KJV)

There is a difference between not condemning and forgiving. What Jesus says here is very interesting and maybe someday we'll take a closer look, but that isn't what this post is about. This post is about why these men brought this woman to Jesus. It was part of a long running confrontation between him and them. Jesus was a confrontationist from the beginning of his ministry and he continues to confront us today.

Let's look at Jesus beginning his earthly ministry and we will see what a confronter he is.

(If you want to see that what follows is Scriptural, you can read the New Testament account at Nitewrit's Own Harmony.  If you would like to read these events with more commentary about each, go to Nitewrit's Own Harmonized Commentary. Or just open your Bible on the table next to you.)

Let's also remember the definition of "confront": 1. to face; stand or meet face to face, 2. to face or oppose boldly, defiantly or antagonistically, 3. to bring face to face with, to confront someone with the facts or to set side by side to compare.

We discussed in the last two posts how Jesus confronted his parents. Now it is about 18 years later and he is about to start his mission in the world. He is approximately 30 years old and to the South there is a cousin baptizing people in the Jordan. This cousin named John has developed a following by this time and a certain amount of fame. Many people even wonder if this guy John is the predicted Messiah.

Jesus comes to John to be baptized and we have a confrontation between the two, granted a mild one. John argues that the roles should be reversed and Jesus should baptize him. But Jesus insists and so is baptized by John.

Immediately after his baptism, Jesus goes into the wilderness for forty days, where he has a pretty well-known confrontation with Satan. Notice this is not an argument between the two. Jesus doesn't get lured into some kind of "Who shot John?" thing. This is a confrontation of temptation with Satan offering all sorts of goodies and Jesus calmly refuting the offers by quoting Scripture, until the end, and then we see Jesus confronting Satan very boldly: "Get you hence behind me, Satan, for it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve'." Luke 4:13 (KJV)

Okay, we would expect confrontations between Jesus and the Devil, I suppose and Lucifer seems to had instigated the face-to-face here. But confrontations aren't defined by who starts it and Jesus certainly didn't back away and he showed his sense of authority.

While Jesus is away in the desert, John the Baptist has his own confrontation with the priests and Levites. This wasn't the first time John has had such things. Before Jesus was Baptized he had a bit of a dust up with the Pharisees,  But when he [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, he said unto them.O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"

This time around these people begin questioning John about who he is, The Messiah, The Prophet or Elijah.

Why? Why were the Sadducees, Scribes, Pharisees, priests and Levites so interested in John?

I believe for a couple of reasons. They were looking for the promised Messiah and they were afraid of losing their positions and powers to Rome. The Jews were expecting the Messiah in those days. There had already been instances of individuals claiming to be the Christ. Some of these folk even had bands of followers and sometimes caused problems. The Jewish powers-who-be had to be concerned. The Sadducees, Herod, The Pharisees all maintained their positions at the grace of Caesar. As long as there was nothing to upset the status quo, Rome would leave them be to follow their own course. However if someone came along and led any kind of uprising, Rome would sweep down and crush it and perhaps crush all of Israel as well. Then what would they have? There were groups enough to worry about. There were Zealots, sort of terrorists if you will, and other gangs of Rebel-rousers. Certainly seeing someone like John the Baptist attracting large number of people would concern them. Still they had to be careful. What if this was the Messiah? They had to proceed with some caution. After all, their concept of Messiah was of a great warrior-king like David who would rise up an army and overthrow their oppressors, meaning Rome. They were somewhat between a rock and a hard place.

Then there comes Jesus back from the wilderness. John has told these fellows someone else greater than me is coming and now he points out Jesus to anybody nearby, saying, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

There were some unusual events on the day Jesus was Baptized. Thunder like voices in the sky, a dove descending on him and I'm sure gossip about these things had reached the ears of those powers-who-be. Jesus was not yet celebrity, but I imagine the authorities were noting him down in their book as a character of interest. He hadn't done anything to rile them yet, but I am sure somebody was saying to keep an eye on him.

Two followers of John the Baptist certainly were eyeing him. They heard John say this and they followed him. These two fellows were named John and Andrew.

Jesus confronted these two men. "What seek you?" It probably startled them and they asked where he lived. He told them to "Come and see."

Andrew brought his brother, Simon, to Jesus and Jesus immediately confronts Simon with a new name, Cephas or Peter, a stone. Note that Simon became Simon Peter even before Jesus began any ministry and well before his famous declaration of Jesus as the Son of God. 

The next day Jesus finds Philip to whom he says, "Follow me", and Philip in turn goes to Nathanael. When Jesus approaches Nathanael, he speaks first, confronting Nathanael with his knowledge of him.

Jesus and these few men now return to Galilee and their first stop is a wedding in Cana, where Jesus confronts his mother with this question, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour is not yet come.”

Some time passes and now Jesus begins his ministry. He goes to the Passover in Jerusalem. What is the very first event of Jesus' earthy ministry? 

And the Jews' Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables. And said unto them that sold doves, “Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.”

Was this the Flower-Child so many paint Jesus as being? Or was this not the same sometimes angry God of the Old Testament? Jesus began his mission with a loud confrontation, a violent one, with a whip and tables crashing over; with people shouting and running and with the ones in authority watching.

Then he had a confrontation with those people in which he referred to what would occur three years or so hence. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jesus began the confrontation with the ingrained holders of the Law and religion of the time and place. He would have many such confrontations with the Sadducees and Pharisees from then on. They would dog his footsteps and the thoughts of killing him began early on.

But while here, Jesus did some preaching to the people and performed some miracles and he attracted the attention of one of these Jewish Rulers, one Nichodemus.

And he had a face-to-face confrontation with Nichodemus challenging the man's true understanding of the Scriptures that the man had spent a lifetime studying.

After the Passover, Jesus sets up camp in Judea and begins Baptizing too. This causes, if not directly,  another confrontation between the Jews and the followers of John the Baptist about Jesus' activity.

Not long after, John the Baptist is arrested. Jesus now pulls up stakes and heads into Samaria, where Jews generally would not go. Jesus has caused a ruckus in Jerusalem. He certainly made enemies by what he did. They have kept their distance. But now John has been arrested and if it has come to a point in which authorities, whether Herod or otherwise, feel comfortable doing that to John, they quite well could feel it was safe to come after this guy Jesus.  He's gained some followers, but certainly hasn't yet become as popular as John was. Samaria is not where they would think to look for a Jew.

And in Samaria he has a confrontation with a woman at a well. I mean, she being a Samaritan and he being a Jew, it is even a confrontation to even speak to her and then he challenges her religious beliefs. Read the conversation he has with her. It is full of confrontation.

After Jesus has been through Samaria, he cures a Nobleman's child in Cana. The Nobleman is from Capernaum, I suggest you keep that in mind for future reference.

Now, Jesus goes to his home town of Nazareth, walks into the Synagog and confronts those there by reading Isaiah's prophesy of the Messiah and indicates he is the fulfillment. They don't like this. They try to kill him.

People don't like being confronted with the truth and Jesus was and is a great confrontationist.

Next: Band on the Run

Illustrations:  Jesus Curses the Pharisees by James Tissot, 1886-96
                      The Purification of the Temple by Jacopo Bassano, 1570

1 comment:

  1. ah.. but being confrontational is judgemental and offensive don't ya know? The church would do well to read more post such as this and be reminded, that speaking truth in love can sometimes be confrontational. Great post Lar..

    Tammy :)