Today, I thought the sermon was just for me in an odd sort of way. You see, I had this startling experience yesterday while reading the book of Mark, and today Mike made me feel a little bit less odd about what I felt yesterday. After reading the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10,l sat the Bible down and thought, “Jesus, I don’t like you very much.”
I have been reading through the book of Mark, wanting to see his deep love for me and not just when am good. It has not been going so well. What I have found is a Jesus who I don’t get and sometimes don’t like. Kinda scary to even say it out loud. I find myself irritated or offended by what he says…not his actions...I see love in them, but still….he gets under my skin with what he says.
When Mike said today that Jesus was unconventional, the light bulb went on. That is exactly what I am rubbing up against so hard. No one gets a free pass from Jesus in this book. Every time he speaks he is challenging someone, causing them to rethink what they believe. He makes the Gentile woman seeking healing for her daughter voice her fear that Jesus is only for the Jews. He picks grain on the Sabbath. He doesn’t even give the rich young ruler any kudos for what he has done to serve God. One challenge is met the next day with an additional one.
Jesus is turning Israel on its ear. Gigantic crowds are following him, constantly pressing in to be healed. He is teaching to thousands at a time. There is no escape. There is no privacy; finding some quiet in which to be alone with God or just to be alone with the disciples to teach them is becoming increasingly tricky. And everyday he does something new that is off the rocker unconventional.
After 10 chapters, yesterday I felt like giving up and walking away…it was just too much. I want a Jesus on a quiet mountainside to whisper sweet words of affirmation to me. What does that say about me? Do I just want Jesus to make me feel good about who I am? Do I follow him because he makes life easier? If I had been a contemporary of Mark, would I have given up, and walked away back to the synagogue whispering my criticisms of the Lord of my faith?
This time reading through the gospel of Mark what I see is a land and a people in conflict and turmoil. It is hard times. Things were not as they seemed in the Sunday School flannel board stories of my youth. Hanging with Jesus was hard and scary. It took a lot of courage and faith. If my faith is going to be authentic, I need to stop striving for the “peaceful, easy living” and man up and enter into the fray…that alone would be an unconventional step in this day and age. And that is where I need to start.