I don’t know about you but I am the kind of reader who often gets stopped on a phrase. I will be coasting along reading and then like a skiier who glides right smack into a tall evergreen, one little phrase can halt me. I can’t tell you how many times I have been listening to someone teach…following closely every intonation of their voice…and then one tiny phrase turns me into that skiier again.
Well, reading my book last night, I had a skiier moment. In the introduction. ( And I had such high hopes of reading past the first 11 pages…*grin*) The darned thing about those kind of moments is its not easy to recover. My mind is spinning a hundred miles a minute and I cannot continue…cannot even read the next word…or I have that other experience where I finished a chapter and couldn’t tell you one thing it said. I know you’ve had that experience even if the skiier-thing seems a little far fetched to you…
Explaining how Jesus is not just the icon of Christianity, but has been made available to all religions and even to the non-religious the author mentions a 1920s book about Jesus entitled “The Man Nobody Knows” and suggests a title for the current days could easily be “The Man Nobody Hates”.
Paused. Halted. Stopped dead in my tracks. I sat up in the hotel bed, turned off the TV which had been providing a low hum to block the vaccuum in the hall, and laid the book upside down (open to only page 11, mind you) on my lap. That phrase raced through the highways of my mind “The Man Nobody Hates” and as it pushed through the context of what I know and have read before- what I have experienced-, and it stirred me up.
Fiery is a word used often to describe me and if I have ever felt fiery, it was at that moment. I felt fiery, I felt lied to, I felt disgusted, I felt misrepresented, I felt angry. “Since when is Jesus the man nobody hates?” I said outloud to no one in particular. Silence filled the room, but it was anything but silent inside me.
We have come a long way from the person of Jesus when we think of him as some benevolent, soft spoken claymation doll. I am not claiming to be a scholar, but I know that much. I know in His day from the accounts we have of His life, He was anything but bland. He even said of himself “I have come with a sword”…a sword that would divide friends and families as much as unite His kingdom. He cauitioned His listeners to try not to “stumble on account of me”…if Jesus were such a feel-good character who existed only to affirm and comfort humanity, would he need to ask people to not reject truth BECAUSE of Him? I mini-movies in my mind running…pictures of Jesus throwing tables upside down in the temple when the masses were being abused by the religious…pictures of Him taking on those leaders of the day, calling them liars and fakes and vipers! I see the Pharisees and church people creeping around trying to find a way to take him out and often only stopping because they were afriad of the crowd. Yes, a crowd that loved Him…
Jesus was loved. No doubt about that. Deeply and fiercly by people who had seen Him..who had walked beside Him and had been touched by Him. Fierce love. Not the kind of tolence or acceptance that is implied by saying no one hates Him. Not bland or casual love or even distant admiration.
Coming into real encounter with Jesus did not and does not leave people unmarked. He incites the kind of deep passionate reactions we read about in the Bible. On account of Him, many of His followers were murdered…hung upside down on crosses and stoned to death. On the other end of the spectrum the masses He had cared for released a murderer in order to see Him killed. Deep love and relentless hate. This is what He leaves in the wake behind His presence.
It seems to me that if its true that the motto in America concerning Jesus is “the man nobody hates” than we have not encountered the same man spoken of the Scriptures. We may have made a look alike claymation doll of that man…carefully removing the offensive characteristics and enhancing the universal ones…but we have not looked into the fiery eyes of the man Jesus. Because then we would have to shelve the idea that He is like a cuddly pet or a moral worldview or some kind of imaginary friend who bends and fits to our every whim and desire. We would have to remove the “Jesus-filter” that culture has lent us and stare at Him…and see Him for all that He is. We would have to hear His sharp, hard words and experience His tenderness and walk close enough to smell the journey on Him. My prediciton: we would either be ruined with love for Him, somehow accepting the mystery of His personhood and words or we would be impassioned with murderous hate at the thought He would not become the earthly King we had hoped for. We would not be residing comfortably with “the man nobody hates”…we would either be whispering through tears, “who else has the words of life?” or seething “Release Barabas!”