The Other Jesus | Matthew 10:24-39
There is more than one Jesus in the Bible. I do not mean that there are other people with the same name, though there are. No, I mean that there is more than one actual Jesus—there is the one we know, of course, and there is the one we do not know.
We know the Jesus who walked on water. We know the Jesus who fed five thousand people on a mountainside with some bread and fish that a child gave him. We know the Jesus who let the little children come and sit on his lap and mess up his beard. We know that Jesus, or we know about him. This is the Jesus who matches our expectations. This is the Jesus we created out of bits and pieces of the one in the gospels, a Jesus we created largely in our own image.
Oh, come on. We do that sort of thing to people, even friends and relatives around us, refusing to see parts of their personalities, re-imagining them, sometimes out of kindness, sometimes for other less positive reasons. We do the same thing to God: we read that we are made in the image of God, but more often we re-imagine God in our image.
Then we read the 10th chapter of Matthew, and we don’t quite know what to make of it. This isn’t the Jesus we know. This is the other Jesus, the Jesus whom we do not know.
Now we find ourselves dealing with the Jesus who turned the tables on the moneychangers, the angry Jesus who made a whip out of some rope and drove animals and some people out of the temple. This is the Jesus who turned around and called Peter, that great disciple, by the name of satan, the great accuser and questioner. This is the Jesus who told a foreign woman who came begging him to help her daughter that it would be like throwing children’s food to a dog, though to be fair he was making a point to the people watching, and he did help the girl—rough words, fair deeds.
This is the Jesus who made the people in his town so angry, just by commenting on a few verses from Isaiah, that they tried to throw him off a cliff.
Do we know this Jesus?
This Jesus offers us harsh words, not the sort of sayings that we want to hold close to our hearts. These are hard words.
And yet, we need to hear them. We need to hear them because they are true. Life is not always peaceful. Our neighbors do not always love us back, even if we manage to love them. Our leaders don’t always do the right thing. And anyone who tells us that if we have faith in God, then God is going to make our lives smooth, and peaceful, and easy, is selling something or maybe has never actually read the scripture.
We do our children a disservice if all we teach them is that God is love and that we should love one another. They need to know those two things, certainly—it is the heart of the gospel—but they need some of the harder lessons too. When they are old enough, they need to hear about Cain, and the truth about Joseph’s brothers, and about that crowd of people who tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. Otherwise, when they get out there in the world and find the rest of the truth for themselves, they will blame us and they will blame the Church for not telling them, not preparing them.
If there is a bear in the woods, I want to know before I walk in. That way if I do run into a bear, I might know what I’m dealing with and how to think of a way out. I might at least know enough to run away or to roll up in a ball. I don’t want to walk into the woods thinking that the world is always safe and good, and then find out about the bear.
And I will be thankful for the people who prepared me.
Jesus is telling us that there is a time to be meek and quiet and there is a time to be bold and loud. The life of faith is not always a life of peace and tranquility. It wasn’t for Jesus. It wasn’t for the disciples. Not many of the early church leaders reached old age.
The life of faith is not a life without trouble. It wasn’t for Jesus.
The life of faith is not a life without needs or without struggle. It wasn’t for Jesus, or Peter, or Paul.
We need to remember that sometimes it is right to get angry. We talk about turning the other cheek, but sometimes it is good to turn the tables. We forget that we are the ones who speak for the weak, even if we ourselves are weak. We are the ones who give shelter to the poor, even if we ourselves are poor.
If we do not, then they will be left alone, like children in the woods. Who will help them if we do not? And who will help us if they are lost?