Quite a number of people say they love the Jesus in the Bible. But I think if most were honest they would say there were things about Jesus that they didn’t like. Personally, there are things I like about Jesus of Nazareth and some things I don’t.
Even before I went through my season of questioning there was something that has always bothered me about Jesus. That thing is that sometimes he seems to be out of his mind – at times he seems incapable of having a proper conversation. I can think of two examples of where he appears to be behaving in this particular strange way. The first one is when he was told by the disciples to eat and he responds by saying he has food that they know nothing about, then goes on to talk about doing God’s will. Who talks like that? I have no idea why he couldn’t just say he didn’t want anything to eat. Another time is when Jesus is told that Lazarus is sick, Jesus does a pretty bad job at explaining it to the disciples. When he finishes speaking the disciple seem utterly confused about was happening. By the time they leave to see Lazarus – thanks to Jesus – at least one disciple seem convinced that they were going to die. In both examples, Jesus seems to be over complicating a simple situation. Maybe he was just a bad communicator? Or maybe he was just messing with his disciples and found it funny when they were confused? Whatever it was I just find some of the things that Jesus said to be really strange. At times I laugh at the confusion that Jesus brought about but sometimes I find it rather annoying. It’s interesting that Jesus seems to only talk like this only in the Gospel of John, making me wonder if such situation depicted is more to do with how the writer wants Jesus to come across rather what Jesus himself. While I know many love John’s Gospel I do think he paints Jesus as this flamboyant superhero. I think it’s right to say that out of all the writers in the Bible John is the most talented but I also wonder if he may be exaggerating in certain parts. But as far as I know there’s nothing to disprove that he such things didn’t take place.
Let’s move on to the another side of Jesus I don’t really like, and that is his harshness. Like the time when Jesus told a man who’s father had recently died that he should let the dead bury their own dead and follow him. Recently someone died in my family died and I think if someone were to tell us to let the dead bury their dead everyone in our family would be greatly offended. Yet Jesus has no problem saying such things. Why couldn’t he have waited until the man had buried his own father? Couldn’t he of been more sensitive? Then there’s the time Jesus describes a woman as a dog because she’s a Canaanite. I remember reading a commentary that said that in the original language he isn’t describing her a wild dog but a pet dog. But he’s still describing her as a dog. Why even bring a dog into the conversation? Why couldn’t he just explain to her that his ministry is for those in Israel first? Personally, I think the situation could have been handled better.
I’ve been chatting with the blogger J.S. Park on Twitter regarding some of the issues I have mentioned above. In the chat, he brought my attention to the cultural aspects of what Jesus said. In our chats he said:
Coming from an Eastern worldview, I can see the “rough playfulness” of Jesus’s words just as my own family’s way of speaking. To view a Western view we will almost always see Jesus as too harsh or too insensitive or out of his mind. My family, for better or worse, speaks almost entirely in metaphors and narratives, and uses cheeky expression to get across a profound pointed humor.
I’ve never thought of culture playing a part in the way Jesus spoke before J.S. mentioned that to me. Such a point of view causes me to be a bit accepting of what Jesus had to say, but it also makes me wonder why couldn’t God send an individual saviour to every culture – so that difference in cultures wouldn’t be confused by the foreign cultural aspects. But then again maybe the reason why such a thing didn’t take place was because God wants us to understand different cultures better. Maybe he wants us to develop an understand of people who are different to us.
J.S. Park did also mention that such an explanation could seem like a cop out. I would agree, but maybe such a cop out is the only explanation we have. However, would we say the same thing about the positive things Jesus has said? I mean could we say that turning the other cheek or forgiving others was said within that culture and such things don’t apply to us. When the hard and disagreeable things happen in scripture do we just say that it’s a part of their culture so it doesn’t apply to us? I mean we say the same thing regarding what Apostle Paul said about the role of women within the church. But maybe the difference in culture is the actual answer. But no matter what the case is I still struggle with some of the strange and hash things Jesus said.
Next time, I’ll be writing about the things I like about Jesus in the gospels.
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