Jesus: He's so "NICE"?

      A legend in the field of Youth Ministry, Mike Yaconelli, once said something to the effect that our concepts of Jesus are “all messed up.” He talked about how often people referred to Jesus as “such a nice person.”

      After examining the scriptures closely, exactly what do we find out about how the religious leaders felt about Jesus? Did they have wonderful things to say about him?

      To be honest, many of his actions were just downright confusing to most of the religious people. They are still confusing to many religious people today. Do the following passages of scripture make sense to you? Matthew 11:16-19, Matthew 12:46-50, Matthew 21:31-32, Matthew 23, Mark 2:13-17, Mark 11:15-19, John 4, John 8, John 9:34-41.

      Wow! Jesus was referred to by the religious people as a “glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of the worst sort of sinners!” He called the religious leaders “blind guides, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, etc.” He spent his time with tax collectors, prostitutes and known sinners and had the nerve to even ask some of them to be in his “inner circle of leadership.” And there’s so much more … read the stories!

      Does this sound nice to you? Does it make much sense to you? Does it sound like the best way to make friends and influence people? If it doesn’t, then try to wrap your mind around THE CROSS.

      Is that the method you would have chosen to redeem the people who had turned their backs on you? Would you choose your child to be the recipient of the punishment for the sins of the entire world?

      Isn’t it wonderful that we serve a God who doesn’t make sense? Thank GOD that He lives in the heavens and does whatever He pleases! (Psalm 115:3) Thank GOD He doesn’t ask for our permission or opinions about the way things should be done today!

      May we continue to get out of His way and let Him do what He wants to do … when He wants to do it … in whatever way He chooses to do it!


      I hope you take the time to personally look up the scriptures that are listed and read the stories in full context. Just turn and read about the Jesus found in Matthew 11:16-19, Matthew 12:46-50, Matthew 21:31-32, Matthew 23, Mark 2:13-17, Mark 11:15-19, John 4, John 8 and John 9:34-41.

      Do you find a “kind,” “sweet,” “soft-spoken,” “non-controversial,” and “easily understood” Jesus in these passages? Or did you have to go back and read them again to try and understand exactly what it was He was trying to say and do?

      Have you ever questioned the way Jesus chose to approach things? Be honest! Some of His sayings are pretty hard to take. He was rather bold! At times He was plainly confrontational …even down right controversial. Surely, this wasn’t God’s plan!

      Just look at what He said, “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! No, I came to bring a sword. I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Your enemies will be right in your own household.” (Matthew 10:34-46)

      And this wasn’t even the “toughest” or “most confusing” thing He ever said. In John 6:22-66, He completely dumbfounds His listeners with His words. At one point in the story, the scriptures say, “Even His disciples said, ‘This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?'” And after He finished speaking, the scriptures say, “At this point MANY of His disciples turned away and deserted him.” Does Jesus ever cause a problem for you and your theology???

      Wouldn’t it be great if we could make Jesus “fit” into a nice, neat little box that makes perfect sense? Wouldn’t it be great if He would do and say all of the things that fit perfectly with our concepts of God, religion, church, the world, etc.?

      Be He doesn’t! And that causes us BIG problems! Just like it did the religious people of His day and time! And you know how they decided to handle that problem …

      You don't have to search the Gospels long before you are "knee deep" in the controversy that surrounded Jesus. The controversy followed Him His entire life.

      Remember His birth? The virgin birth? Remember the problems that caused for Joseph, Mary, and their relationship? Can you imagine what everyone else must have been saying?

      There was His famous "disappearing act" at age 12 that greatly distressed His parents. His selection of 12 "very ordinary" men with no religious education or heritage to speak of. Men who would lay the foundation and be the cornerstones of the church. His choice to heal people on the "Holy Day" which appeared to break the very laws He claimed to establish. His defense of His followers who did numerous things that also seemed against the Law of Moses. His disruption in the temple. Of course, who could forget His numerous public disputes with the religious leaders of His day?

      Can you think of anyone like this from your world today? Do you call them a NICE GUY or a TROUBLEMAKER?

      Mike Yaconelli, founder of Youth Specialties and minister for more than 40 years, put it like this: "God help us if the whole world looks at the church and says 'aren't they nice?'"

      Jesus was accused of being a drunkard. His own parents thought He was crazy. The religious leaders thought He was a blasphemer. If you want to follow Jesus, you're going to be called a lot of things, and NICE isn't one of them."

      He goes on to say, “This culture loves nice people. They tolerate nice people. But what they don't tolerate are people who are desperate for Jesus! When you and I get in touch with that desperateness for Jesus, then you better look out, because you never know where it's going to take you."

      Have you ever been truly desperate for Jesus? What exactly would that mean? What would it look like? How would you be characterized by others if you were truly desperate for Jesus? Take the time to read about one person who was desperate for Jesus and make a list of her characteristics. (Mark 5:24-34)

      In Mark 5:24-34, we read about a woman who was truly DESPERATE for Jesus. The Bible tells us she had been suffering from a terrible bleeding disease for 12 years. It was a disgusting and embarrassing problem.

      It goes on to say that she had been to many doctors and she had spent everything she had to fix her problem, but she had not gotten any better. In fact, her problem was getting worse. Welcome to the land of desperation!

      So she did what any desperate person would do … she broke the rules. Remember, she was a woman. She was a “ceremonially unclean” woman, and she approached Jesus PUBLICLY. She didn’t ask for anyone’s permission. She didn’t follow the proper procedures. She didn’t wait in line. She pushed and shoved her way through the crowd of people (who were headed to the RICH guy’s house to watch a little girl get healed) with no thought for anyone else. She did whatever it took to TOUCH Jesus.

      The nerve of some people! How dare she! She has been described by some as rude, irresponsible, reckless, disrespectful, inconsiderate, impulsive, and uncivilized.

      Surely Jesus would rebuke her for this. Surely he would remind her how important it is to be kind and considerate of others. Surely he would withhold his healing from her until she learned how to “be patient, follow the rules, and treat others as she would want to be treated.” Right?

      Instead, just like he did in Mark 2:1-7 for the people who “destroyed someone’s house” in their desperate attempt to get to Jesus, he does the unthinkable. He turns to the irresponsible, reckless, disrespectful woman and says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. You have been healed.” In Mark 2, he not only heals the “law-breaker” but he also “forgives his sins.”

      Does this make sense to you? He scolds the religious law-keepers over and over again and then repeatedly heals and forgives the people who “go against the flow” and “break all the rules.”

      What can this possibly mean?

      Let’s be honest - to the average person, Jesus can be a little bit confusing! Especially when imperfect, sinful people are involved! Do you know how many different CONCEPTS of Jesus there are today?

      So how do you make sense of it all? Who is Jesus? Really?

      Is He the grace-filled, nice guy we read about in the Gospels who defends the prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners? Or is He the rebel who challenges the religious authorities and traditions of the past and present?

      Have you taken the time get to know Him? I mean REALLY know Him?

      I’m not asking if you know the Jesus “everyone else” has told you about. You know … the Jesus your friends, teachers, TV, radio, newspapers, media, movies, church members and preachers have told you about. Do you know the Jesus that God wants you to know?

      Have you examined the scriptures with open eyes (II Kings 6:17) often enough to see and understand who Jesus really is? Have you spent time in sincere prayer talking to Him and developing an intimate relationship with Him? Have you spent just as much time listening for His reply? Do you walk in this relationship every day?

      Do you know where Jesus would spend His time on this earth if He were here this Sunday morning at 9 a.m.? Where would He be Sundays at 6 p.m.? Wednesdays at 7 p.m.? Would He be sitting in a pew in a local church building?

      How would He respond to the people that “the church” often avoids today? Would He treat the homosexual dying of AIDS, the meth addict and the porn-addicted, tattooed, body-pierced person the same way He treated the lepers, the adulterers, and the divorced people in His day? (Luke 17:11-19, John 8:1-11, John 4:1-42)

      Would He respond to our religious modern-day Pharisees the same way He responded to the Pharisees of His day?

      When you think about it, the “Just-So-Nice” Jesus had some very thought-provoking things to say to the religious teachers and leaders of His time. These have been recorded in God’s word for our benefit. As modern-day disciples, let’s pay close attention to what was said.

      The religious people in Jesus’ day were eager to “get the word out” about their faith, just like religious people are today. They thought they were very clear about their understanding of the way GOD wanted things to be done and they even went on “mission trips” to share their faith with others.

      In several places in the Gospels, we are given a snapshot of what Jesus thought about this. In Matthew 23:15, Jesus looked right at the religious leaders of His day and time, and said the following:
      "What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves already are.” (Matt. 23:15) Just before that, He told them, “for you won’t let others into the Kingdom of Heaven, and you won’t go in yourselves.”

      Why would Jesus say something like this to a religious leader who was out “sharing his faith” with the lost? Does this make sense to you? Perhaps a deeper question is, would He make comments like that to religious leaders today? Would He say something like that to you and to me? If so, why? What was it about their mission and their message that would cause the Savior to respond like that? After all, they knew God’s law better than anyone else. Right? And that should have been a good thing … unless …

      They began to rely on “their” knowledge and “their” concepts “of” God, rather than relying on God. Scholars believe Jesus responded this way because their attempts to convert others focused on making others “more like them” rather than on making them “more like Christ.” It seems they were more comfortable with everyone doing things “just the way they did” instead of doing things God’s way.

      And Jesus always had something to say about that …

      When you get right down to it, all of these discussions about Jesus and who He really was and who He really IS, leave me with one major question.

      I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone ask it, but I’ve been asking myself this question for quite some time now.

      A year ago, I spent 52 weeks studying the Life of Christ with our teenagers. We walked through Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, taking an in-depth look at Christ from the perspective of all four Gospel writers. I realized that I didn’t know Him very well, and I have been a Christian for more than 20 years.

      I learned that my concepts of Jesus had come from a combination of many different sources. I found that most of those sources, though they may have seemed “reliable” and “accurate” because they were steeped in religion and years of tradition, weren’t that reliable and accurate at all.

      I found that most of my concepts about Jesus had been shaped by the opinions of men. Men often paint a very inaccurate picture of Jesus … you know … blond hair, blue eyes, perfect skin, flowing robes …

      I found that NOTHING can replace opening your eyes and ears and listening to the voice of God and what He reveals to you through His Word and through His Spirit (I Corinthians 2:1-16).

      This is what I realized: that the RELIGIOUS people who surrounded Jesus HATED Him. They thought He was a fraud and a troublemaker from day one. They attacked Him from every possible angle, and they did not stop until He was totally and completely humiliated, stripped of all human pride and hanging on a cross. They did not stop until He was DEAD! As a matter of fact, even that didn’t stop them.

      I also learned that SINNERS absolutely LOVED Him. They were captivated by Him. They couldn’t get enough of Him. They were DESPERATE for Him. They did whatever it took to get closer to Him. They left everything behind, went without food, walked for miles, climbed trees, tore through rooftops, fought through the crowds, left jobs and families behind and risked everything they had … just to be with Him.

      This leaves me with one MAJOR question …

      … And the question is this, “What has changed?” What “used to be” isn’t the case any more, and I wonder what has caused it.

      It’s obvious that in Jesus’ day the religious people truly hated him. They clearly made it their goal and mission in life to destroy him.

      It’s also obvious that sinful people loved him. They did everything they could to spend more time with him. So, again I ask, “What has changed?”

      One look at today’s world will reveal the EXACT OPPOSITE of this. In today’s world, the religious people claim to LOVE Jesus with all their heart. They promote Jesus in every way possible. Their buildings, banners, and marquees lift the name of Jesus to every person who passes by. Yet, non-religious people in today’s world seemed to be appalled by Jesus. Most of them cringe at the sound of his name. Why?

      Has Jesus changed? Did he all of a sudden become NICE to the religious people and MEAN to the sinful people? Isn’t he still the same Jesus who is the only person capable of setting people free from their sins and struggles?

      When did he become such a turn off to “sinful people?” What “changed” to make this happen? Have you ever SINCERELY thought about this? Since the Bible tells us that our Lord is the “same yesterday, today, and forever” what could possibly cause such a change in attitudes?

      Without much thought, one might say that it’s due to the sinful state of today’s world. Yet one look at the CHURCH in Corinth will reveal Christians who were involved in adultery, divorce, hatred, envy, jealousy, etc. That sounds a lot like the world we live in today, doesn’t it?

      Since Jesus hasn’t changed, it might be good for God’s people to think about what HAS caused this change in the “outsider’s” attitude toward Jesus??? Do religious people have anything to do with this change? (May God bless you as you think about this …)

      It’s obvious that our world’s thoughts about Jesus have changed. The religious people of His day hated Him, now religious people love Him. The sinful people of His day loved Him, now sinful people hate Him??? What changed?

      Could it be that our understanding and presentation of “who Jesus is” has changed?

      Is it possible that religious people have introduced a Jesus to people who appears to be out of touch and unable or unwilling to meet people where they are?

      When Jesus walked on this earth, people knew how He would respond to them. The religious people knew and the sinful people knew.

      The sick, sinful people of the world wanted what He had to offer. They saw the way He responded to the lepers, the tax collectors, the woman caught in adultery, the woman at the well, the woman with the bleeding disease, the woman who wiped his feet with her tears, etc.

      Sometimes they came to Him and sometimes HE WENT TO THEM. Either way, the result was always the same: He healed them … physically and spiritually and they were never the same!

      Why don’t people in similar situations today run to Jesus the way they used to? Isn’t He the same Jesus? Isn’t He still willing to do what He has done in the past? (Hebrews 13:8)

      Do religious people today present this same Jesus to the lost? Does our Jesus still meet people right where they are? Is He still willing to go to them, or do they have to come find Him at the church building and meet a long list of requirements before He can help them? (Titus 3:4-7)

      What kind of Jesus do you present to those who need Him the most? (Mark 2:17)

      Jesus always has been and always will be debated. In the past, in the present and in the future, people will try to “figure Him out.” They will always ask, “Who was He really?” Scholars will read His words, His stories, and His parables and they will have endless debates over “what He REALLY meant?” They will all think THEY are right.

      Was He just a nice, gentle man who never ruffled anyone’s feathers and always sought to “pursue peace with all men” Or was He a renegade, a rebel and someone who was always shaking things up? After all, His actions and His teachings led Him to His own death on a cross at the hands of the religious leaders of His time.

      So who is this man from Nazareth … this man who was “born of a virgin” … this man who never sinned, yet was referred to as a glutton, a drunkard and a sinner by all of the religious people?

      No matter how long the debates continue and no matter how many different opinions there are about Him, some facts will NEVER change … and you can take it to the bank:

My Jesus is the King of Kings! He’s the Lord of Lords! He’s the Prince of Peace! He’s the Lamb of God! He’s the Great High Priest! He’s the Living Water! He’s the Bread of Life! He’s the Light of the World! He’s the Chief Cornerstone! He’s the Resurrection and the Life! He’s the Good Shepherd! He’s the Head of the Church! He’s the Author and Finisher of our faith! He’s the ROCK! He’s the Alpha and the Omega! He’s the Beginning and the End! He’s the Great I AM! He’s the Great Redeemer! He’s the Lion who is the Lamb!

(Revelation 3:14, 20-22)
Brad Pistole
5 April - 7 June 2007

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