This is an interesting question, and it’s worth thinking about. If you consider yourself to be a Christian or a follower of Jesus, then it seems automatic to answer that you like Jesus. At the same time, it’s important to remember that He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
When the scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, priests and other religious leaders of His day interacted with Jesus, it was usually less than cordial. They routinely confronted Him with their law, religious conformity, pious expectations, landmine questions and power conundrums. On the flip side, Jesus tweaked them regularly when He healed on the Sabbath, caroused with suspicious characters and routinely forgave people whom the religious people considered really sketch.
In looking at the relationship dynamic between Jesus and the religious leaders, we can see some consistent themes. As for the religious people in Jesus’ day, I think that in general, they had a power agenda. They didn’t want to lose their power, and they wanted to have control and power over Jesus. As for Jesus and His interactions with the religious folk, it could be easy to see that He tweaked their piety. As an example, He healed the man with the withered hand, smack in the middle of the Synagogue on the Sabbath. When I watch and read Jesus’ interactions with the religious people, these cause me to think about Jesus’ motives, particularly as a contrast to the motives of the religious people. If the religious folk had a power agenda with Jesus, what was His agenda with the religious people?
There are plenty of examples of Jesus being confrontational and even rude with the religious people in His day:
- Matthew 23 is filled with Jesus exposing lots of yucky stuff in the lives of these religious leaders.
- In John 8:7, Jesus tells the religious leaders that they can throw the first stone against the lady caught in adultery as long as they’re without sin.
- When the Pharisees confronted Jesus about His disciples not washing their hands, He answered in Matthew 15:3, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”
Jesus is definitely prickly in His interactions with the religious folk. But I think we can see His pure motive to reach and reconcile these people when we look at Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. This is a really powerful conversation, and Jesus makes it clear that God’s heart is love for the world, and that’s why Jesus came to the earth to express God’s love for humanity – John 3:16-17.
So what does all of that mean for us today? I think it is similar to Jesus’ time. Many religious folks want to use Jesus for their agenda. Such agendas can include political manipulation, money schemes, moral superiority, justifying exclusive actions and attitudes, along with lots of other yucky stuff. Consequently, such behaviors can sully who Jesus really is.
This brings me to the question at the beginning of this blog. Do you like Jesus? If we really like and even love Jesus, then let’s reflect on Him for who He really is rather than “using” Jesus for power, control, manipulation and distortion. Let’s keep loving Jesus as the essential theme in our lives!