Sunday, September 7, 2014

Jesus: a "Mere" Man Like No Other

The Jesus Followers, without reservation or apology, acknowledge Jesus is a man, fully human, just like us.

But Jesus isn't a "mere" man - as if being human was a sin or deficiency in and of itself. No, this Jesus is special and unique in the world, as are his teachings.

At his baptism, Jesus was specially anointed - chosen - by God as His unique spokesman/prophet. "You are my son," he said. "This day, I have given birth to you."

He was sent out to preach, but not to the well-off, the comfortable, the ruling elites, and those who were spiritually healthy. No, he was sent to the poor, the distressed, the dregs of society, and to those who were spiritually ill and yearning for completeness.

The Teachings of Jesus themselves are unique, not just "good advice" or "interesting sayings" to be considered lightly. While some built on the teachings of others - the Hebrew prophets of old, and the teachers of some other schools of Judaism - many were shocking, and all were challenging.

He called people to give up everything to follow these teachings. Mere teachers don't do this. This Teacher, sent from God does.

He said we must turn the other cheek when confronted by evil, rather than retaliate in kind.

We should walk two miles when asked to walk one - doing more than required, even when being forced by others.

Rather than indulge in focusing on our selves, he called on us to completely deny ourselves, to the point of taking up a cross, a tool of death.

When most religious leaders prayed long prayers to be seen by others, he said we should go into our closet and pray secretly.

He said we must do these things even at the risk of being hated by everyone, or even being killed for our actions.

Instead of serving ourselves, we must, said Jesus, serve others completely and with compassion. This includes the poor, the sick, the hungry, those without adequate clothing or housing, and those who need spiritual comfort.

Love and pray for your enemies, he said, to the amazement of all.

And perhaps the most shocking of all - he called on people to seek nothing less than to be as holy, perfect and merciful as God Himself.

No other man had said these things, and he spoke them with an authority that amazed, confused and then angered those Religious Elites who controlled the thinking of the people in his day.

They denied we could please God by our actions. They said people were too weak to obey God, and instead should pray long prayers and rely on rituals. They said outward appearances and good intentions were enough for God, ignoring all of the teachings of their own Scriptures and of their prophets.

Jesus sought to shake things up, to reform the fundamental orthodoxy of his day. And just as in his time, many of the established elites today don't like his teachings very much, either.

But his teachings undeniably call us to Good Works and Righteousness. We cannot hide our Good Works, they must be an example just as the Teacher that inspires them. We must be the light of the world, just as Jesus showed God's light to the world.

We cannot hide behind our alleged human frailty, we cannot blame others or our supposed genetic inability, and we cannot make Jesus into a one-of-a-kind aberration among humanity - a Superhero or Demigod who cannot be followed, but only admired and worshiped from afar. Instead, we must take up the challenges Jesus lays down for us and accept them as achievable.

Jesus calls us to action, not merely contemplation. He calls us to BE an active people, not a mere collection of church-goers, believing in comfortable doctrines and mouthing mindless prayers the "orthodox" approves for us.

We "mere" human beings are called by Jesus to achieve all that God desires us to become. God's servant Jesus calls us to do, to act, and to serve. Let us take up the challenge.

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