“How would you describe Jesus in one or two words?” I asked the youth in our Bible study. They chimed in quickly with love, goodness, humble, pious, kind, caring, devout, meek and gentle.
“So, what do you think Jesus would actually look like?” They mentioned long hair, pale skin and a constant smile, like a hippie from the 1960’s dressed in torn jeans and a tie-dye shirt. He has flowers in his hair and he’s holding two fingers in a ‘V’ chanting, “Peace, dude.”
Another student described Jesus as if He were Mister Rogers dressed in his sweater singing, “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood. Will you be mine? Will you be my neighbor?”
“Wait a minute!” I asked the class. Do you really think that is what Jesus looks like? “Remember, Jesus was arrested, beaten and tortured before being killed on a cross. Would anyone do that to a flower child or Mr. Rogers? Nah! I don’t think so.”
So I asked the youth another question: “Why were the Jews so angry at Jesus?” The youth quickly answered the first question describing Jesus but now they were, silent. One looked at me and quietly answered: “I really don’t know. Why would they want to kill Jesus?”
I responded: “There are interesting answers in the twenty third chapter of Matthew.”
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.’” (Matthew 23:1-3)
The scribes and the Pharisees do not practice what they teach? Who are the scribes and Pharisees and why is Jesus chastising them?
Scribes and Pharisees were experts on Jewish law. Surrounded by Greek culture and Roman occupation, the Jewish people were slowly losing their identity as people devoted to God’s law. Scribes and Pharisees took a heroic stand to once again follow God’s law no matter what. They were respected and considered heroes. Scribes and Pharisees were much like your pastor and church leaders. Good people of the church and community. People like you and me.
Imagine Jesus visiting your church on a Sunday morning. The entire community gathers to hear the message. On the front row sits the pastor and church leaders. Jesus steps up to the pulpit and thrusts his arm toward the front row and shouts: “You pastors and church leaders sit in nice buildings with thickly padded pews and stained glass windows. You may be good teachers but you do not practice what you teach.”
Then I said to the students, “Are you beginning to understand why the scribes and Pharisees were so offended? But wait, there is more.” I returned to chapter 23 of Matthew and continued reading:
Verse 13: “How terrible it will be for you pastors and church leaders.”
Verse 15: “Yes, How terrible it will be for you pastors and church leaders.”
Verse 16: Blind guides! How terrible it will be for you!
Verse 23: “How terrible it will be for you pastors and church leaders.”
Verse 25: “How terrible it will be for you pastors and church leaders.”
Verse 27: “How terrible it will be for you pastors and church leaders.”
Verse 29: “How terrible it will be for you pastors and church leaders.”
After years of reading the Bible, I’ve learned that when something is repeated – it is very important. Jesus says this seven times. Then he shouts the harshest condemnation of all: Verse 33: “Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?”
People who are always angry don’t cause much of a stir after awhile but when a person like Jesus who is known for being loving, calm and compassionate blows his top, you wake up and take notice.
Why is Jesus so angry? Also, why is he so angry at pastors, Sunday school teachers, choir members, Administrative Board chairpersons, deacons, elders and other leaders?
Most of all, why is Jesus so angry at me?
Next: Part 2 of “A Different Way of Looking at Jesus.” The answers may surprise you or even infuriate you. But, then you will begin to understand why Jesus very deliberately walked a road destined for a cross on Calvary. Meanwhile, read Matthew 23 for yourself and let me know what you think. I may include your thoughts next week.