Lethal Savior

not a tame lion

I was teaching through a story in the New Testament recently…and something Jesus said really alarmed me. I have read this passage numerous times…and it has always seemed odd to me in light of whom I’ve understood Jesus to be. I had always been lead to believe that Jesus was simply a loving person…never harsh. Every time I had heard a sermon or lesson about Him in which He seemed severe towards someone…well…it was explained away through some type of verbal gymnastics, “In the original language, this word mean such and such and that phrase meant something totally different…,” and so on. Following along this same path of thought, when I would teach something difficult about Jesus, I would do the same thing…until the other day…and then I decided to let Him be Him…and I found a much more shocking Jesus than many of us have known…

I remember reading some years ago about a guy that said he wanted to follow Jesus, but that he had to wait and bury his father first. Jesus responded with this statement, “Let the dead bury the dead.” To be accurate, there was a definite context that we can tap into there and get a little more meaning behind His words, but our tendency is to soften what He said by taking the focus off of it and putting it on the other man. Ultimately, when Jesus says things like this, it makes us quite uncomfortable. We want the “precious moments” Jesus…one that never is harsh…one that never gets angry…one that just hugs people all of the time and tells them that God loves us all. I began to ask myself the question of “why?”. I began to wonder why we want a Jesus that is so non-threatening.

Something alarming occurs to me. When we react this way, it’s as if we are somewhat embarrassed by Him. He becomes like that relative that we are reluctant to introduce to a new friend. We aren’t sure what He’ll say or how He might make us look like fools. Essentially, we want to tame Him. We want to make Him more palatable for those that are unfamiliar with Him. It’s like we’re telling Him “tone it down” a little until they get to know Him. When we come across Jesus in Scripture and He is doing something we are uneasy with, then we begin to divert attention away from those actions or statements…or we try to explain them away. In Matthew 15, a gentile woman comes along and asked Jesus to help her daughter. According to the story the girl was possessed by a demon and the mother was distraught and looking for help. In this story, Jesus tells the woman that it is not fitting for Him to help her since she is a dog and not a Jew. No matter how we try, this is a troubling story. I’ve read lots of commentary on what He meant. The truth of the matter is that no matter how we look at it, His statements were rather insulting to her. Now…the rest of the story is that the woman didn’t care how she was treated and was desperate for help. She persisted, and He responded with help and encouragement, “And her daughter was healed instantly.” (15:28)

I don’t understand why He said what He did. I don’t understand a lot of things I saw Him doing in the stories of the New Testament. However, in every occurrence, He did in fact help people. He may have said some difficult things. But He did show genuine love and concern for all of humanity.

We cannot tame Him. We cannot tone Him down. If we do, then all we have is a “nice-guy-savior” that may be more palatable to an overly sensitive generation…but is truthfully not the Jesus of the Bible. This is dangerous ground…because we have now introduced a new savior…which is not a savior at all…

Jesus was lethal. He made a whip and beat the abusive religious people in the Temple. He turned over their money tables. He chased them off. Imagine the look on the disciples’ faces. Imagine how they may have felt when things like this happened. If they were here talking to us today…and we compared notes about the Jesus we know…they would most likely ask about whom we were speaking. They would be totally unfamiliar with this Jesus…because the One they knew…wasn’t a diplomat…He wasn’t safe…once again…He was quite lethal.

The lethal Savior is the One that changes lives. The other one is just makes us temporarily comfortable…but possibly eternally condemned.

We don’t need to tame Him…quite the contrary…we simply need to unleash Him.


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3 comments on “Lethal Savior

  1. What a great insight, as usual Steve. I am not certain I would extend that to the adjective “lethal”…He never killed anyone, but it does provide a handy, if salacious, title. I do especially like your words on verbal gymnastics. We were taught to interpret the text in its historical, grammatical context. Jesus doesn’t need an explaining away of behavior…He requires prayerful and searching interpretation of why each inspired thought and perspective is there. Love you man!

  2. Sandra Dillingham says:

    I think it is best as long time Christians to see Jesus for who He really is. Not sugar coating His actions. But it is best to lead with His love and sacrifice for us. Yes He was a rebel in His time, but He did all He did for my salvation and He wasn’t afraid to face death for me. It may come a time when we too must point out the sin of others for their own sake, but I feel we still must lead with love. This is a great article Steve.

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