ďOur Comfortable JesusĒ
March 23, 2003
For the first two Sundays in Lent, we have taken important first steps on our journey.† These first steps have focused our attention on a resounding theme of the whole Biblical witness, which is that of divine promise and ultimately divine fulfillment.†
Indeed our scripture readings for the last two Sundays have brought to the forefront Godís initiating and establishing of the divine covenant with humanity.† The good news for us is in the most certain knowledge that in spite of human rebellion and disobedience, Godís divine covenant with humanity remains intact, secure, and forever.† God alone is the promise maker and promise keeper. But if our Lenton journey is solely about God, then we will have neglected the purpose and meaning of Lent.† We will have neglected this important time of self-reflection when we take a long, hard look at ourselves and our relationship with God.
††††††††† Our next step on our journey is not an easy one for us to take because it requires us to look into the mirror and gaze into our own eyes, into the window of the soul.† This is not always easy for us, because when we gaze deep into the recesses of our own consciousness, of our own heart, we fear what we might find, or will find, and that is not always something we want to confront and deal with, because then it means we need to change, and change is uncomfortable.
††††††††† For many of us, comfort is the name of the game.† We like our comfortable world, our comfortable life, and our comfortable faith.† We like our daily routines and habits just the way they are.† They are our security blanket and peace of mind that everything is fine and dandy.† We donít like our ordered life, and especially, our ordered faith shaken up or disturbed.
If there was ever a text to shake us up, disturb us, and make us uncomfortable, it is this one, because there is no way of getting around how Jesus acted on that spring day in Jerusalem.† All of us at one time or another have seen someone get violent and angry in public, and all of us know how it makes us feel: anxious, afraid, mad, and especially uncomfortable.† We would just as soon walk away from it and ignore it, than to stay around and get mixed up in it.
††††††††† But this was not just some person acting violently and angrily, this person was Jesus, our beloved Jesus, the humble servant Jesus, the meek and lowly Jesus, the Jesus we have hanging on our walls at home in paintings, the Jesus we have come to know and love, the Jesus who reaches out to outcasts and sinners, the Jesus who says, ďLet the little children come to me,Ē the Jesus who is our shepherd, the Jesus who is the Lamb of God, the Jesus who willingly died on the cross for us.
††††††††† Jesus was and is all of these things.† The Bible certainly tells us over and over again that Jesus loves us, and our own experiences with the living Christ witnesses to the fact of Jesusí remarkable patience and tolerance with us, just as with the impossible people he encountered during his life.† But there are other aspects of Jesus that are no less undeniable, and to walk away and ignore those aspects of Jesus, is to walk away and ignore the Spirit of Christ that is in us.
††††††††† Our text describes for us a wild scene of Jesusí absolutely going ballistic over what he saw going on at the temple.† Imagine being there and seeing people running around trying to gather their flying coins as Jesus overthrows the tables, or seeing people cowering in the corner as Jesus grabs a whip and starts lashing out at everyone within reach.
††††††††† How uncomfortable it is for us to think of Jesus this way.† It is far safer for us to accept and believe only those things about Jesus that appeals to us, that fits into our own image of Jesus, and that describes our comfortable Jesus, than to think of Jesus with a whip in his hand.† So, we end up importing into this text every other Biblical passage and historical context we can think of to give a reason for Jesusí anger in order to soften and excuse Jesusí violent cleansing of the temple.† We say things like, ďJesus was just angry at the people who were making a mockery of Godís house.† Jesus wanted people to be reverent when they came to worship.† Jesus wanted to make sure everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike, was welcome at Godís house.† Jesus was only making a statement about the irrelevancy of animal sacrifices because he was Godís sacrifice. Jesus was only being human.Ē
Certainly all of these reasons are valid and good messages for us, but if our focus is simply on what others were doing, then we have missed a much deeper message in our text, a message that is directed toward us, a message that forces us to look into our own eyes, into our own soul, a message that forces us to look into Jesusí eyes as we ask ourselves whether or not we have a comfortable Jesus.
††††††††† Do we have an image of Jesus that fits nicely with our comfortable lives and comfortable faith?† Is the Jesus we believe in, the fair weather friend who pats us on the head and says ďitís okay, donít worry about itĒ?† Is our faith in Jesus so superficial that it only fits into our lives when it is convenient and suitable for us, or when we feel like it?† Surely our understanding and belief about Jesus, and our faith in Jesus goes much deeper than this.
††††††††† It is our confession that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, the one who in his life, death, and resurrection revealed to us and to the whole world who God is.† It is our confession of faith, that at ALL times, Jesus did the perfect thing to do, that he did God-like acts, from forgiving sins, to healing the sick, from raising the dead, to eating with the outcasts and the poor, from dying on the cross, to cleansing the temple.
††††††††† Thanks be to God that Jesus is not always comfortable for us.† Thanks be to God that Jesus is not always the good-natured, agreeable Lord, who doesnít get upset and dismisses our errant ways as if they donít really matter.† Thanks be to God that Jesus so truly, and deeply cares about us that he not only doesnít let us get away with our own sin, but also our own comfortable and convenient faith and discipleship.
††††††††† To have in faith in Jesus, is to believe in the one who refuses to compromise with us, who refuses to expect from us anything less than complete and constant devotion, who refuses to let us have a comfortable Jesus, and whose hope and expectation for us, exceeds our own hope and expectation for ourselves.†
It is glorious good news and a testimony to Godís holiness that Godís anger is never separate from Godís love.† In the cross and resurrection, Godís justice and love is fully revealed for all to see and believe, which is the sign and indeed the visible witness to Godís divine refusal to compromise with humanity, and Godís divine pledge of hope for the world.
††††††††† During this season of Lent, as we continue on our journey, I invite you to be uncomfortable at times, for it will be in those times that you can be most assured that the power of the Spirit of Christ is at work in you, and that is the most comforting good news we can ever know.† Amen.