Do you have Jesus all wrong?
Jesus, not another like him, number eleven.
In recent weeks, I have been looking into becoming a Colson Fellow1 and one of the requirements is to take the StrengthsFinder test.2 Having taken the test several years ago, I found it quite informative! Depending on one’s school or career path, there are several kinds of these surveys--personality, temperament, even how we handle conflict--that help us understand ourselves and other people too. Enter Jesus. How do you think Jesus would shape up on a personality or temperament assessment? Interesting thought, isn’t it?
Truth is, I think that we envision a watered-down Messiah, someone we have made in our own image, someone we have made nice. I think we are d.e.a.d. wrong. Philip Yancey captured the misconception better than any other I know when he wrote: The personality that emerges from the Gospels differs radically from the image of Jesus I grew up with, an image I now recognize in some of the older Hollywood films about Jesus. In those films, Jesus recites his lines evenly and without emotion. He strides through life as the one calm character among a cast of flustered extras. Nothing rattles him. He dispenses wisdom in flat, measured tones. He is, in short, the Prozac Jesus.3 Hmmm. I do not know about the Prozac part, though it is descriptive, but I do think we have tamed the Lord, a.k.a. the Lion of Judah.
Just think about Jesus in our last several Morning Briefings: as he leaves the obscurity of Nazareth behind him and gets baptized, he willingly fasts 40 days in the wilderness--oh, and with no fanfare, no one watching or applauding or posting on social media. Then Jesus recruits his disciples (wait--who follows a Drip? They do not. People follow a compelling, passionate, strong presence ), does the miraculous, changing water into wine - and a lot of it. Okay, that’s cool, but then just a scant several days later we see Jesus do something that is anything but nice--anything but meek.
Huh, where do we get the notion of Jesus as a weakling? Maybe it is because we know he will later stand trial without uttering a word in his defense, mocked and whipped without putting up any fight . . . perhaps that figures into our seeing him as kinda wimpy. Jesus was neither a wimp nor a weakling. You will see that up close in today’s passage from John chapter two. [The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke cover more of Jesus’ ministry at the Galilee, whereas John seems to write a lot about Jesus’ time in and around Jerusalem.]
“It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money.”
>Note: Passover observants needed to purchase animals for their sacrifices at the temple, as many had traveled some distance. But the way in which the dealers in the temple area were conducting business was chaotic and kept the Gentiles from worshipping in the outer court. Moneychangers were necessary because of folks who needed to exchange currencies, but they were gouging the observant worshippers and should not have been in the temple.
“Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the moneychangers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!”4
Jesus got angry and made the moves to right a wrong. So interesting that it was not in defense of himself, but rather because of the wrong being done to others--worshippers were being ripped off!-- that Jesus angrily took action. The Temple was being profaned. Matthew’s gospel reports that in the last week of Jesus’ life, he cleanses the temple again, and then he makes a very emphatic statement that has long rung in my ears--"My house shall be called a house of prayer!”5 We don’t deal with issues of animals and moneychangers in worship centers today, but it sure seems like so many churches have forgotten to keep prayer a priority.
Jesus still sees wrong, injustice and abuse, and for many, it seems to go unpunished. For some reason, as I was studying I thought about how He must feel when a child is sexually abused. For many, it seems no one has ever had to pay--they got off without even being caught. One day Jesus will set the record straight - one day that abuser will pay. God said so in the book of Deuteronomy and Paul repeated God’s words in the book of Romans: Vengeance is mine. I will repay.6 Thank you, Lord... I believe you, I know you will.
Jesus had a strong sense of who he was and he was a strong man of character, unafraid and unapologetic to stand for righteousness. You? Me? Maybe here is where the W.W.J.D. bracelet comes in handy.
Either way - Jesus--reassess your view of him...do not dumb him down and certainly do not tame him.
How about a little Anne Wilson? My Jesus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KL475Wik0iY
1 - on knowledge, worldview and influence: https://colsonfellows.org. ‘Want to join me?
2 - Strengths Finder 2.0 by Gallup
3 - The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey
4 - John 2.13-16
5 - Matthew 21.13
6 - Deuteronomy 32.35; Romans 12.19