Mondays for preachers should at least come with some humor. After all, many of us replay the message from the day before in our heads and face the specter that we could have communicated better. At least those of us who preach our own stuff.
Yesterday I aimed to describe how Jesus often made everyone mad, at least everyone who had a stake in the way the world was/is. Disrupt things as they are and death is around the corner.
Our primary text was John 2 and Jesus driving out the animals and the money changers that occupied the space intended for seekers and those generally exclude by ethic division. Matthew, Mark, and Luke locate the story in the Passion Week where his actions were akin to the final straw, the last nerve had been violated and Jesus’ foretelling of his death made sense. Make the powers mad by calling them to account and you may be sure death awaits, at least then, if not now.
John locates the story of Lazarus’ resurrection as the straw that broke the camels back. A formerly dead dude walking around could not be so easily rationalized by the powers as not really real. John even reports there was talk of killing Lazarus. If he is no longer walking around, then Jesus’ ministry really poses no threat. But, since they could not do that, they sought all the more to kill Jesus.
As much as we want to point to a super-intending cause for the death of Jesus, we cannot escape the text as it reports all the ways Jesus made the powers mad and so ensured his own death. It was certainly a radical move to finally say, “There is a new King in town, and it isn’t Caesar. And, by the way, put your swords away.”
Making that point yesterday I intended to describe how people become markets. Nathan, our Associate Pastor, had referenced the John 2 story and talked about the Temple complex becoming a marketplace. Just as an aside, have we not returned to the scene of that crime in some of our current iterations of church in US America?
I began, “Jesus referred to the marketplace.” Catching myself I said, “Sometimes Nathan reminds me of Jesus.” It was a good recovery. Many of us who know Nathan find his temperament Christ-like so I am sure not a few thought it an apt compliment.
After worship I took up my post greeting folks as they were heading out to a beautiful Sunday. One young lady stopped to say, “Did you mean that Nathan makes everyone mad like Jesus did.” Priceless! I responded, “Very nice!”
The truth is Jesus did not set his agenda to peeve the religious leaders and the civil powers. But, when you take up the vision of God for human beings and you honor and recognize he variety of ways that image has been neglected, abused, marginalized, by people and powers, you may be sure those who like things as they are will certainly get mad.
There are times where I think some take up the self-proscribed role to tick off the world for the sake of ticking off the world. But, that is not Jesus’ aim. Instead, he aimed to bring peace and flourishing to human beings and so the world. Take some time with shalom in the Old Testament and eudaimonia in the New Testament. When the vision of God came into conflict with the values of human beings who liked things as they were, death resulted.
The real radical move might be for those of us who claim a commitment to Jesus and his way take up the goal of bringing flourishing to all people. When we make that commitment and we run afoul of the powers, then we may talk about something like persecution. But, maybe what it will really be is the natural outworking in our lives of the material reality of Jesus, the in-fleshed existence of Divine Insistence.
Come to think of it, sometimes Nathan does remind me of Jesus.