Did Jesus Really Say…

Message of Jesus

We are pretty damn good at getting the good news confused.

We take bits and pieces of the whole truth and magnify them into pillars with which we can stand firm in our own convictions. We take the truth of Jesus the Messiah, and instead of being shaped by his own complex creation of his own identity, we assign cheap caricatures to the Son of Man. All this serves to do is twist gospel into something that looks remarkably like the words we hold near and dear to our hearts. Even then, we choose to convolute the implications of our doctrines with the actual annunciation of salvation.

We are good at confusing ourselves with religious talk, pious soundbites, and catchphrases spun in just the right way. We make ourselves sound so “Christian”, so spiritual, all while missing the actual message of good news proclaimed in angel songs.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe these tweets and soundbites of judgment and self-assurance actually are the divine good news to a sinner like me. Maybe I’m too wrapped up in my need to be loved to hear the need to repent and never sin again. Maybe I am just bad at being a Christian.

I doubt it.

Holy Bullshit

Everyone wants to find the answer to being a good Christian, or at least better than our neighbor down the street. We lay out our version of following Jesus as the answer to the problem, as if God himself gave our brand of Christian a gold star or smiley face sticker. Whether it be progressive, conservative, liberal, or moderate, we are all convinced that Jesus actually lived our kind of life, spoke our kind of words, and approves of our kind of religious practice.

We forget that we all have tables in the temple.

We are all just playing a game of holy bullshit, bluffing each other with our version of truth. We have gotten so good at it we forget that we are bluffing, and we start believing our own hot air.

We have forgotten that Jesus came to heal and to wound, to chastise and to comfort, to cut and to bleed in our place. We willfully forget the parts about God we don’t like, be it judgment or mercy. We continue to give each other out poker faces forgetting that each of us is holding a shit hand, and no one has the table advantage.

What the hell is wrong with us?

The fact that someone is reading this feeling the need to defend orthodoxy just proves my point: we can’t let the gospel be good news and tension. We have to force the gospel to pick sides.

In doing so, it stops being a game we play. In doing so, we spew holy bullshit from our mouths. In doing so, we rob the gospel of is saving power, replacing it with moral behaviour or fuzzy feelings of acceptance.

The good news about Jesus is wild. It’s a fucking trip, not something we can tame, not something we can assign into our social categories or our religious piety. The good news Jesus came shouting in the streets, to the whores, drunks, money sharks, and religious assholes alike is something we still need to hear. Every day. Every one of us.

“The god Yahweh has reconciled all things to himself in the person of Jesus, the Messiah.”

This isn’t something to tame, to abuse, or to bullshit about.

This is the kind of shit that brings life back from the grave.

The First Lie

The adversary, the serpent, the great dragon whispered into the ear of our primeval mother Eve, “Did God really say…”, and thus the first lie was born. The lie that eats at us all, the lie that says we can’t believe the good news of Yahweh’s announcement of peace, of life, of shalom.

Did Jesus really say...It is time to redeem the lie.

So I ask you: Did Jesus actually say that?

I don’t care what kind of Christian you are. I don’t give a rat’s ass about what tribe is yours, what tradition you come from, or what label you choose to identify your self.

Did Jesus really say your gospel?

When Mark 1.14-15 tells us that Jesus began saying “…the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”, was Jesus talking about your doctrine, your beliefs, your sound bites? Was he talking about mine?

This notion that we somehow have the message of Jesus locked down tight and understood rightly is just a mockers laugh in the face of God.

We don’t understand… but we believe.

And this is the tension. This is the balance we barely hold, the water we walk on, the fear and wonder that grips us as we stand face to face with the only begotten son of the most high god. The misunderstandings and yet still hope we feel is the haunting of the Holy Ghost, the living, sharper than a two-edged sword spirit of Emanuel – of God with us – breathing life into the dry bones that dress in these whitewashed robes of religious affiliations.

You don’t finally get the gospel; the good news gets into you, driving you to obsession and love, to holy fire and sober judgment.

So stop pretending you know what Jesus said.

Just let him speak.

  • Rebecca

    Hi Aron,

    What a provocative post. Every Christian needs to hear this message, all Christians need to daily
    remind themselves of the gospel and to ask themselves whether they are living as if they believed it.

    “Whether it be progressive, conservative, liberal, or moderate, we are all convinced that Jesus actually lived our kind of life, spoke our kind of words, and approves of our kind of religious practice.”

    I totally agree with that statement.

    But there are some things I have questions about.

    Firstly, I am wondering what about Mark Driscoll’s tweet that you object to.

    ‘Basic message of Jesus: “I’m God. You’re in sin. Repent to me or you will go to hell.’ No wonder they killed him. We’d have killed him too.’

    Do you disagree with his synopsis of Jesus’ teaching? Or is it the line “No wonder they killed him”?

    Because, even though this may not be the most tactful way to present the gospel, it seems pretty accurate to me. Looking at the Scriptures, Jesus does say “I’m God. You’re in sin. Repent to me or you will go to hell” – not in those precise words all at the same time, but I’m sure you know your Bible well enough to know that this is accurate to Jesus’ teachings. You might not feel it is complete – I myself feel it would be better if he mentioned grace as well.

    Or do you object to “no wonder they killed him”? Because at first, this does seem like a very self-righteous thing to say – pinning the blame for Jesus’ death on the mysterious “they.” But the very next sentence shows
    that is not what Driscoll intends! He points out that all of us, when confronted by the Gospel, are enraged, unless our hearts have been changed. I do not hear self-assurance in Driscoll’s tweet, nor judgment – at least no more judgment than God himself expresses in Scripture.

    But maybe I am proving your point.

    “The fact that someone is reading this feeling the need to defend orthodoxy just proves my point: we can’t let the gospel be good news and tension. We have to force the gospel to pick sides.”

    I suppose I am defending orthodoxy, at least in its most basic form: the doctrine that Jesus came down to Earth to die for the sins of those who believe in Him, to save them from judgment. But if that is orthodoxy, that is not “pretending [I] know what Jesus said” because he actually did say that in the Bible. Again, I don’t include Scripture references because I think you know your Bible. If you want them, I can of course post them, but I have to head to class in a couple of hours.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that orthodoxy isn’t always bad – or at least, it depends on how you define orthodoxy. I agree that there a lot of issues that are not central to the Gospel, especially many political issues. But there is one thing that is central to the Gospel – and that is the Gospel. Jesus’ words in the New Testament. We must let Him speak for Himself, yes, and he will not pick sides of political issues, but he will say, quite firmly, that He is the only way to the Father – and I believe that once we understand that, we should spread the news of our sin and His grace, which I believe Mark Driscoll is trying to do.

    Please forgive me if I have misinterpreted any of your writing. I really appreciate your blog – it challenges me to question many of the things I assume are true. I agree wholeheartedly with most of the details of this post, and the main point is exactly what every Christian needs to hear. I just wanted
    to ask you to clarify a few of your statements.

    God bless,
    Rebecca
    P.S. I suppose my entire argument is based on the assumption that when you say we should let Jesus speak for Himself, you are referring to His words in the Bible.

    • Rebecca,

      Thanks for your comment.

      For the record, I do believe orthodoxy matters. Greatly. Theology counts, and we need to do our theology well. I’m glad you are asking me to do good theology with your comment.

      As for Driscoll’s tweet… I think it does a great job of ignoring the humanity of God incarnate.

      The tweet seems to ignore Phillippians 2.5-11, which is a gospel passage. Also, if that was the message of Jesus, why didn’t Peter reiterate the “(Jesus said) I’m God! So you better repent to him of risk the fires of hell” in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2.14-42)?

      Yes, Jesus is divinity and humanity. Yes, Jesus is Yahweh made flesh. Yes, Jesus is God, however that isn’t the focal point of the good news. It is important, but it is not a summation of the teachings of Jesus or the hope he tells us. The gospel is that God has reconciled all things to himself in Jesus who is the Messiah.

      He was killed because he wanted to die for our sins. He was killed because he threatened the powers that be with a message on inclusion to the kingdom, of open innovation, and because he painted a picture of God that laughed in the face religious leaders, political leaders, and zealot’s alike.

      My problem with Driscoll’s tweet is this: it puts words into the mouth of Jesus that make Jesus more like Driscoll rather than asking us to believe in a God that is asking Driscoll to be more like him. The hidden ministry of Jesus is there for a reason. He purposefully told demons to not talk about his divinity. The Isaiah 42.1-4 prophesy paints a picture of a humble servant, someone who was here to care for the oppressed and the hurting, someone who would be the brother to humanity. I think Driscoll missed that in this tweet, along with many of his sound bites.

      In other words, Driscoll’s focus makes Jesus arrogant and self assured, instead of self sacrificing and longing for repentance so that we may be restored.

      Hope this gives a bit more context for you.

      • Rebecca

        The Philippians passage is very useful in understanding where you’re coming from, and I appreciate you taking the time to explain your perspective. Honestly, I had not considered that aspect – and I should have. I agree that Driscoll’s summary of the Gospel message is not perfect; and I also agree that humility was a huge part of Jesus’ character.

        In terms of Jesus stating “I am God” – I was thinking of passages like John 14:6, etc. I would agree that the fact that Jesus is God might not be the focal point of the good news, but it is essential to the Gospel that Jesus is both completely human and completely God, and I think there are times in the Gospels when Jesus’ words might seem arrogant because He is God, and He speaks with authority that none of us have. And so, as you said in the blog post, we need to let Him speak for Himself.

        “For the record, I do believe orthodoxy matters. Greatly. Theology counts, and we need to do our theology well.”

        Thanks for doing theology well. I think it’s so hard to become unbalanced in what doctrines we emphasize, and I’m glad you are challenging me (and other readers, of course) to take a hard look at how we speak about Jesus.

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  • harrisco

    “[W]e all have tables in the temple.” Brilliant and beautifully expressed, Aaron. Yes, we do–and I would be a bit upset if some guy came in one day and turned them askew… because I like my tables right where they are, thank you very much. God, forgive me my piety, my table-minding, my need for order and control.

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