When was the last time your were shocked or astonished by Jesus?
Beyond our group from Florida, there's another American staying here at Hostal Jerusalen. Her name is Cassidy, and she's a college student from Kansas City. She's here on a summer internship with the Rainbow Network, which is a charity helping the poor in Central America.
Cassidy describes herself as a former hard-core Southern Baptist who has become more liberal. She finds spirituality in the world and in other people. She doesn't go to church. She doesn't pray, in the traditional sense.
Yet, this afternoon, she had an encounter with Jesus.
She was out in the country, meeting with some local people, when they decided to pray. She, having no apparent way out, found herself in the midst of a prayer meeting. But, what she heard astounded her.
They read from the Bible:
And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." (Mt 8:19-20)
Cassidy found this statement absolutely stunning. She called it “awesome.” But, as she started to tell me the verse, she paused, and I finished it for her.
I knew the passage. But, have I become too familiar with the passage?
Those of us who regularly read the Bible, or have a good familiarity with the Gospels, can sometimes read statements like that and miss the shockingness. We can miss the fact that Jesus was scandalous. He was shocking. He was counter-cultural.
He came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (My 20:28)
Think about what that means. He, the creator and sustainer of the universe, came to be a servant.
At the pastors' conference, the other day, I recounted my experience visiting Alfa y Omega on my second night here. Steve, Angela and I arrived after the service started, and we were standing in the back. Juan Bautista, the pastor, went and brought us chairs. And because he could only carry two chairs at a time. He made two trips. And so, I told the pastors, Juan's church saw him being a servant. It was a small thing, I know. But, it showed a servant's heart. And then I challenged the pastors with this question: “When your congregation looks at you, do they see Jesus or a fat politician?”
But, Jesus is more shocking than that. He not only came to serve, but he came to die in the place of others. We, as Paul wrote, are all sinners (Ro 3:23). And, we were once “dead in our trespasses and sins...by nature, children of wrath...” (Eph 2:1,3). One man says, “Let's roll” and puts up a fight before his own impending death, and the phrase becomes a national passion. Yet, Jesus came with the intent of suffering and dying for the salvation of people who hated him.
Do we miss the extent to which that is absolutely amazing?
We romanticize the life of Jesus, and we gloss over the degree to which his life calls into question our own lives. We miss the call of Jesus—the call that Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated this way: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Or, I like how Francis Chan described our ignorance of biblical normality, and his goal for his life.