|Photo Credit: Daniel Y. Go|
For those of us that consider ourselves to be followers of this Nazarene carpenter, I trust it serves as a poignant reminder as we remember the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord:
"What do we do with this Jesus? This was the question on every one's mind at the swing-point of history 2000 years ago. The Jews, the Romans, Herod, Pilate, the High Priests, even Jesus' own disciples - they all found themselves wrestling with the same perplexing question: "What do we do with this man?"
For some reason he didn't seem to fit very conveniently into anyone's agenda - personal, national, religious or otherwise. The Jews wanted a warrior king to drive the occupying Roman army out of the promised land. The Romans wanted to maintain and expand their empire over the known world. Everyone else just wanted what people everywhere have always wanted: pleasure and prosperity and to be left alone.
Jesus came along and upset all of that. He refused power. He didn't seek fame. He treated the pleasures of this life as inconsequential. He humbled himself as a servant and his selflessness alone became a walking indictment of all human agendas - base and noble alike. It's no wonder he made people nervous. He was like a splinter in the soul. Even those who despised him couldn't ignore him. They buzzed around him constantly, angry and perplexed.
In their defense, his presence must have been a bit overwhelming. The story of his life on earth is more than we seem eager to contend with today, but people then had no choice but to physically rub shoulders with him. They walked the same dusty roads and breathed the same air. There wasn't any getting away from it. He kept popping up at odd moments, infuriating people with his compassion, perplexing them with his gentle wisdom, and frightening them with his unbearable love. And then there was the whole business about claiming to be the Son of God.
Truth is, Jesus was an absolute scandal. He taught that the least were the greatest, the rejected were the blessed, the wise were the foolish, the weak were the strong, and the secure were the lost. He taught that people should selflessly love, not just their friends and families - which would have been difficult enough - but strangers and enemies as well. He called on those possessed by their possessions to leave their wealth behind to follow him into a life of uncertain suffering for the one promised consolation of his love.
His words grew so appalling one afternoon that many of his followers gave it up for good and returned home, muttering that his teaching was too hard. They had had enough. Those who stayed were apparently in too deep already. Most scandalous of all was the way Jesus publicly and persistently rejected the proud, self-righteous religious leaders of the day and instead drew prostitutes, half-breeds, political revolutionaries, smelly fisherman, and turncoat tax-collectors into his circle of friends - all of whom soon and somehow found themselves, by his very acceptance, transformed from what they had always thought they were into a new existence as children of God.
It's one of the eternal ironies surrounding Jesus that those who allowed the exposure of their own weakness, shame, and guilt were the very ones who were afterward able to drink with joy from the fountains of eternal forgiveness and love, while those who fought desperately to prop up their own crumbling facades of self-righteousness were in the end reduced to a ridiculous position, raging blindly against love and their own liberation. Jesus was always hard to take that way - an insult, even - because beneath it all, it seemed that everyone needed him whether they wanted to or not, prostitutes and Pharisees alike.
And that really was the crux of the problem. His very nature exposed the heart and forced the hand of everyone around him so that in the end, after the haze and baggage burned away, it was all laid out pretty simply. You were left with only two possible ways of answering the question "What do we do with this Jesus?" You could either follow him or you could crucify him. 2000 years of science, progress and religion don't seem to have changed things for us all that much. The human heart is still the human heart. Nuclear power, psychotherapy, and satellite television notwithstanding, most of us still find ourselves - in our more honest moments - faced with the same troubling question and the same simple options that perplexed Christ's contemporaries...
"What do we do with this Jesus?" It is something to think about..."May we each take some time in the coming days to reflect on the One who gave His life so that we could live.