Not Your Typical Evangelical Perspective of Jesus
These are not my words but the title of a book written by Mark Galli. His message is that the Jesus described in the Gospels differs substantially from His portrayal in most evangelical churches.
It would be interesting to ask 1000 people whom we deemed representative of evangelical Christianity to write a 200 word description of Jesus. I assume we would find the responses flooded with terms such as loving, gentle, and accepting, with very little mention of qualities such as stern and probably a complete omission of descriptive terms such as harsh.
Getting to Know Jesus All over Again
Yet, if we take off our evangelical cultural glasses and read the Gospels through fresh eyes, we would not have to look hard to find the Jesus Galli describes. Rather, He would be difficult to miss.
For example, in John 8:44 we find gentle Jesus meek and mild telling those who earlier in that chapter are said to have believed in Him, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” In essence Jesus is saying, “The devil is a murderer and liar, and so are you since he is your father.” Now there is a seeker friendly message for you.
Always Kind and Understanding?
The passage in which I believe this stern characteristic of Jesus surfaces most graphically is Matthew 17:17, which records Jesus after coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John being begged for help by the father of a demon possessed boy because the other apostles were unable to cast out this demon. Jesus responds, “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” In case the reader misses this message in Matthew, it is repeated almost verbatim in Mark and Luke.
Studying this passage, I am convinced that these words were directed toward the apostles who were unable to deal with this demon. To call them faithless is bad enough, but “perverse?” That’s pretty harsh. And then to follow that up by lamenting about what a burden it is to be with them and wondering how much longer He must put up with them!!! Regardless of whom He might have been addressing, that’s real in-your-face talk.
So Approachable You Can Ask Him Anything?
Another passage that reveals just how tough Jesus was with his disciples is Mark 9:32. Jesus had just spoken about his death and resurrection. Both Mark and Luke record the response of the disciples in saying, “But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him.” The word for “afraid” here is the plain old Greek word for fear. My guess is that the typical evangelical perspective on Jesus would have Him so approachable that the disciples would feel comfortable asking any question. This verse reveals that this was not the case.
Our Very Own Jesus
Yes, the Gospels also record a tender and sensitive side to the nature of Christ. But to exclude the dimension of His character described above leaves us with a Jesus of our own making, one complete with a label on which is written, “Made in the USA.”
What Difference Would a Biblical Jesus Make?
From the passages above we conclude that the relationship of Jesus with the apostles during His earthly ministry was much more like a boot camp than an extended therapy session.
This reality raises the issue of how we should view our relationship with Jesus Christ today. It seems that the typical evangelical perspective has Jesus as always gentle, accepting, and understanding. My sense is that if we could talk with the apostles they would tell us otherwise. And if we would adopt their perspective, I believe it would make a difference in how we lived.
Beyond that, if we were seeking to be like Christ, how would this perspective of Christ change our attitudes and actions?
And if church leaders were committed to be like the Christ of the Bible, our churches might be more like boot camps than extended therapy sessions. How much purer and stronger would individual believers and our churches be under this program?
As we are about to move into 2014, one of the most significant New Year’s resolutions that individual Christians and churches could make is to answer and respond to the question, “What would Jesus do?” from a biblical perspective.