I’ve been hearing many warm and fuzzy things about Jesus. It would seem that, to some, He is nothing but a cuddly stuffed animal with some special abilities thrown in: comfortable, warm, able to keep us safe. To others, He’s like a doting Grandpa: forgetful of what we’ve done wrong, but remembering that He wants to make us happy (and seeking to do so by passing out pretty things that sparkle a lot and bring the happiness we seek). If we don’t know the Real Jesus, we get confused; worse, we spread forth our confusion.
Things that should never be uttered, have been. They go along the lines of:
“Jesus is like a cup of coffee: He makes me happy, fills me up and makes me warm all over.”
“Jesus just wants us to be nice to each other and to be happy.”
“Jesus said, “Judge not,” so stop judging me.”
Well, Jesus did say, “Judge not” but it didn’t (and doesn’t) mean what so many take it to mean today. While we are at it, Jesus also never said that He just wants us to be happy (or to be nice). Holy and truthful, yes; nice? No.
You see, Jesus Himself might not be considered such a “nice” guy, if you really knew Him. He tended to shake things up, step on toes and get in people’s faces. He gave a lot but He demanded a lot, too. Anyone not content with dying for Him wouldn’t have liked Him much.
He said things such as…
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16: 24)
“But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?” (Matthew 22: 18)
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.” (Mark 10: 5)
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:8)
“And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither.” (Luke 9: 41)
“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9: 62)
“And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.” (Luke 13: 32)
“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14: 26)
That’s what He said in His Own words. Nice, huh? Real, real respectful of His followers feelings, don’t you think? No? Oh, okay. So maybe His words weren’t always so nice but what about His actions? I mean, He healed a lot of people and fed them, didn’t He? Yes, He did, but each healing, each filling of empty stomachs were done for a divine purpose. In fact, once Jesus even confronted His followers and told them that they were only following Him in order to be fed. John 6: 26 records, “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.”
So, could His actions have been considered “nice” all of the time? No. Let’s see why:
At the beginning of His 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 found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” (John 2: 13-16)
And at the end: “And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.” (Mark 11: 15-18)
To prove that He wasn’t considered a “nice” guy, just look at that last verse again: “And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.” (Mark 11: 18)
Destroy Him? Destroy Him? Folks don’t just want to go out and destroy “nice” people, do they?
But, that wasn’t the only time. There were others. Lots of them. Consider these…
“Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.” (Matthew 12: 14)
“And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.” (Mark 3: 6)
“And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine.” (Mark 11: 18)
“And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,” (Luke 19: 47)
“Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” (John 5: 18)
“The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.” (John 6: 41)
It seems that Jesus had most of the deeply pious, highly religious folks after Him, seeking after His death. Then again, maybe it was because they didn’t know Him. Maybe if they had understood Him, they would have embraced Him.
Then, again, maybe not; after all, His family and friends wanted to take charge of Him because they thought He was crazy: “And when his friends (family in other versions) heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.”
It gets more interesting: in Luke 4, His hometown people wanted to kill Him after He had declared that the prophet Isaiah prophesied about Him. Luke 4: 28, 29 records the story, “And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.” Now, think: these are the people He grew up among; they included His aunts, uncles, cousins, playmates and His customers and fellow merchants from His days as a Carpenter. What did they want to do to this “nice” guy? Kill Him! Family! Friends! Customers! Fellow merchants! Folks like Aunt Miriam, Uncle Isaiah and Cousin Jonathan wanted to kill Him. Wow! “…and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.”
People that you have known your own life don’t just suddenly rise up against you en masse and decide that they want to kill you. Folks just don’t do that to “nice” people.
My point is this: Jesus wasn’t nice; Jesus was good. Jesus didn’t say (or do) what others wanted Him to, He said (and did) what was right. That made Him unpopular. That made many supposedly good, religious folks so angry that they wanted to kill Him in order to make Him shut up.
We have a picture of Jesus as meak and mild, peaceful and calm. Weak, even. That’s hardly true. Jesus always did what was right, but rarely did He do what others wanted Him to do. He answered only to His Father. He was controlled by no one.
At times, Jesus even refused to answer those who questioned Him:
“And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11: 33)
That’s polite, huh? See, politeness wasn’t what Jesus was after. He was here on earth to do the will of His Father in heaven. He didn’t have to answer to anyone (except His parents when He was little). While He was on earth, few if any ever really understood Who Jesus was or what He was doing.
It’s the same today. Few of us in the church today really understand Jesus. We want Him to be what we want Him to be and refuse to see Him as He really is. We want a sweet Jesus, a non-judgmental Jesus, a kind and loving Jesus Who only wants us to be happy. We want Him to fight for us, wait for us, long for us. We want Him to be everything that He isn’t.
That’s not to say Jesus isn’t loving and kind. As God, Jesus is the embodiment of love. However, His kind of love is the real kind of love rather than the mushy stuff that we call love. Jesus’ kind of love is rooted in truth and holiness. It is selfless, serving and demanding.
Wow. Demanding love? Really? Yes. Do you not demand that your kids perform, obey and do what is right even if they don’t want to, even when it makes life hard and non-fun for them? Of course you do. So does He.
He demands more from us than most of us want to give. So, we give lip-service to Him or we try to create Him anew in our own image (making Him the created rather than the Creator) and thus creating an idol and a false god.
If we want someone nice, we should all go home to mommy or grandpa. Jesus isn’t “nice” as we would define niceness but He is good…and holy…and loving. We don’t need to try to make Him over into something He’s not because He is perfect as He is. Nor, do we need to feel that we have to somehow explain Him or defend Him: He is God and perfectly capable of defending Himself. He, as God, cannot be fully explained. This side of heaven, we can never fully know or understand Him. Eternity itself will be spent with the endlessness of learning more and more about Him. Since He is infinite, it will take infinity to be able to search Him out. We can, however, get started here and now by taking Him and His Word and the worship of Him seriously. It isn’t impossible, we simply have to want it enough.
Jeremiah 9: 23, 24 “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”
Jeremiah 29: 13 “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
So, that’s it. If we want to know Jesus, we have to stop defining Him to please us and seek to understand Him as He truly is, on His Own terms (which, after all, are the only proper ones). He died for His own, bearing our sins and because of that He is approachable and our advocate. And, that, my friend, is better than “nice” any day.
Soli Deo gloria