Jesus And People
Although He was a leader, swamped by crowds wherever He went, with an entourage of children always behind Him, Jesus had none of the characteristics of the cult leader. Those religious reformer, cult leader types are usually highly strung, compulsive, angry, austere people who make others feel uncomfortable in their presence. Yet the way the Gospels make it clear that He made all types of people and children feel happy in His presence indicates that Jesus just wasn’t like this. He wasn’t critical of others’ weaknesses. And today just as much, Jesus attracts all types of people to Himself, thus forging the unique fellowship which we know so well- from taxi drivers to insurance executives, saints to sinners. The light of who He was revealed the areas of improvement required in others; but it was His very uncriticalness which attracted people.
Yet this wasn’t because He simply wasn’t the critical type. His lambasting of the Scribes and Pharisees shows that clearly enough. What He was so passionately against was hypocritical organized religion that abuses and damages people; and a disproportionately large amount of the Gospel records goes into recording His criticisms of this. There were at most 5000 Pharisees in the whole of Israel; and yet the Lord’s passionate confrontations with them are so extensively recorded. As far as I can tell, Jesus only spoke of the reality of future condemnation when talking about those who had been insensitive and uncompassionate towards their brethren, protecting their religious structure at the cost of tragic human wastage in the personhood of others.
His otherwise uncritical spirit is shown by His patient bearing with the immaturity of the twelve. Recall when the Lord was walking ahead of them, and they were fiercely debating who should be the greatest. He either sensed what they were talking about, or simply overheard them and didn’t let on. He slows down and lets them catch up. And instead of blasting them that ” Come on, that’s not how you should be talking…” , He almost congratulates them on wanting to be greatest by saying that whoever wants to be greatest must be servant of all. So artless, so gentle, so careful not to humiliate them by force or spiritual manipulation. Or think of the rich young man who wanted to follow the Lord. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. There is a glaring contradiction in the way this young man says that from his youth he has kept them. But he’s young. Yet Jesus doesn’t point out the arrogance and inappropriacy. He encourages the young man to rise up to the highest level, and loves him for his spiritual ambition. It’s an essay in the Lord’s masterful way of combining challenge with gracious acceptance- all in the same breath.
His body language would have spoken volumes. Grace as it were poured from His lips, Ps. 45 had foretold. His words were full of grace in a way that was altogether striking. You know how it is when it seems a fly or a bee seems intent on persecuting you. Think of your body language as you brush it away in exasperation. Think of His…in the blazing heat of Palestine. Time and again, day after day. I suspect it would have been different. And then think of how the scent of blood would have beckoned all manner of insects and even birds of prey to irritate the Son of God as He hung in His time of dying, unable to brush them away. Thinking of His daily demeanour helps us grasp how the cross was really an extension of His life; it wasn’t simply an unusual, out of character pinnacle of uncharacteristic spirituality. And likewise our crises will only be surmounted if we can meet them in the spirit with which we live everyday life.
Jesus was in His life ” separate from sinners” . The Greek word very definitely means ‘to actively depart from’- it’s used about a partner walking out of a marriage. Yet the Lord is always pictured as mixing with sinners, to the extent that they felt they could come to Him easily, and actually liked to do this. So how was He ” separate” from them in the way the Hebrew writer understood? Here again we see one of the profoundest paradoxes in this supremest of personalities. He was with sinners, then and now; His solidarity with us, the roughest and the most obvious and the subtlest of us, is what attracts us to Him. And yet He is somehow totally separate from us; and it is this in itself which brings us to Him.
Jesus truly was all things to all men, as was his matchless disciple Paul; yet He managed to achieve this without being hypocritical, in the sense of being one thing to one person but acting another way to someone else. The fact He wasn’t hypocritical and yet was all things to all perhaps reflects the way there were so many sides to His character; or it can simply be that He Himself had such compassion for people that He could somehow genuinely be the person they needed Him to be, without any insincerity about Him. God is perfect within Himself as signified by His name ” I am that I am” nothing more nothing less, and Jesus as His Son was likewise complete within Himself. He was complete as a human being. When we look at our Lord there is no false self- a phenomena which dogs all of us in some ways at some times, What we see is what He is, nothing is hidden in the sense that He had no hidden agendas. This was extremely appealing to people.