On the Plains of Moab Blog
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May 26, 2013, 5:52 PM

Buddy Jesus?

The conventional wisdom in church circles goes something this:  Only preach and teach from the Gospels and you won't offend anyone.  Stay away from Paul and definitely don't go preaching that God of wrath, Old Testament stuff, and you'll be fine.  Keep it  all about "Love, Love, Love!"

May I please weigh in on that observation?  What knucklehead came up with that line?  Obviously someone who doesn't know their Bible or the flow of redemptive thought very well.  Let's remind ourselves of something that should be very obvious:  At the end of the Gospels (all four of them), Jesus isn't a successful, popular mega church preacher.  He isn't preaching in a converted basketball arena to 30,000 people and an even larger TV audience with scads of book deals.  True enough, he has risen from the dead and is alive at the right hand of God the Father Almighty forever more to make intercession for us.  But... he was put to death on a cross because his message gave an abundance of offense.  (To put it mildly.)

The Romans didn't have much use for him.  His disciples all ran for the hills.  His own people called out for his death.  And, the religious-in-the-know people smugly gloried in satisfaction at a job well done.  Jesus didn't win too many friends during his earthly ministry.  In modern terms, he was a failure in ministry.  He was "run out of his church."

Of course, of course, he had the words of life.  He was and is and always will be, Lord.  He is God.  But, the message that Jesus brings is hard to take...especially when you're a sinner, like most of us.

Check that, ALL of us.

We don't want anyone telling us how to live.  We have minds.  We are able to reason.  We can sort through things.  Thanks, Lord, anyway.

So, why do I always hear this ill-informed advice about preaching from the Gospels to stay safe and off other people's toes?

I have a couple thoughts on this.

First, many people believe that the Gospels are mostly about Jesus telling some really neat parables about how to have a better life.  They are down-to-earth stories that are practical.  Helpful for every-day living.  Being a better dad, husband, neighbor.  How to have a great marriage.  Indispensable advice on how to manage money and be a good steward.

Huh?  I don't think so.  The parables are not about how to have your best life now.  I think Jesus said something to the effect that the parables he told were to mask truth from the uninitiated ear.  The parables were hard to grasp.  The parables were meant to conceal.  Why do you think the disciples were always asking Jesus, "Hey man, what did you mean a few minutes ago when you were out there teaching the masses?"  You see, the parables were about teaching the nature and reality of the coming Kingdom of God.  They were about revealing God's intent to reverse the curse of the Fall.

Secondly, most people very easily assume that the greatest and only culprits in the Gospels are the scribes and Pharisees.  We assume that the only people in Jesus' cross hairs are the heavies that ultimately get Jesus killed.  Wrong.  The Gospels go pretty rough on the average man or woman in the pew.  Perhaps as we read the Gospels, we ought to be continually asking ourselves, "Is it I, Lord?"

I must tell you quite honestly, I find preaching from the Gospels to be a challenge.  Part of that challenge comes no doubt from the misperceptions -- such as the two lines of thought that I have briefly sketched out above.

But, hold tight, we have just begun to get into the meat of the Sermon on the Mount.  Looking at the full implications of the sixth commandment next week.


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