This morning I was checking some Facebook posts by friends. One friend posted something about church and then one of the most popular statements out there today popped up. I mean, I have used it myself, probably in an article here. It has been used in comments on my articles and in hundreds, if not thousands, of sermons.
It goes something like this (there are many variations): “You know the only people Jesus got mad at were the religious people.”
There! That settles the argument. Simple.
But hold on for a moment. People toss this around and yet no one says, “Hey you are right … and I am a Pharisee!”
So we all use it, we toss it around to kind of quiet the noise around us and to make the other person think they might just be a Pharisee.
This trump card has been overplayed, I think. If this was a card game someone would be accused of cheating because we cannot all have the winning card … can we?
For many of us, no one wants to be seen as being religious … or one of them. I had to look up the word “religion” to kind of get an idea of what we are talking about. One dictionary said this, “A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.” OK, there was also this definition: “The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.”
So the first thing I want to say is this: There are many of you out there saying you are not “religious” and yet I would have to say … yeah, you are. So if Jesus got mad at only the religious people, well that could include you … and me.
I mea,n even if you claim to be an atheist, you just might be religious. Kind of reminds of you of the old Jeff Foxworthy jokes, “You might be a red neck if …”
“You might be religious if …”
When someone says, “Well you know the only people Jesus got mad at was the religious ones,” aren’t we insinuating that the person on the other side of the equation just might be a Pharisee if they disagree with me … or you?
Really no one raises their hand to volunteer to take on the role of the Pharisee … no one sees themself in this role … well unless you were really a Pharisee, but you know what I mean. Yes, Jesus was kind of hard on the Pharisees and the Sadducees but you know what? He was straightforward with some others also.
We love the image of Jesus meek and mild … but he did have another side, you know.
Some woman comes to him asking him to heal her daughter. This person was from the wrong side of the tracks … so Jesus tells her he can’t give the children’s bread to the dogs (Matthew 15:21-28). Ouch! This was way before athletes made the term “dog” a friendly greeting. This was a slam. The woman responds well and Jesus heals her daughter, but what was Jesus' problem there? Was she a religious person?
A woman caught in the act of adultery is brought to him. The religious leaders wanted action … they wanted some stones thrown. He stumps them … and as she leaves he tells her to leave her life of sin. Isn’t that kind of mean? To assume she was a sinner? Of course the adultery thing was not a great idea but sin? Really? That seems kind of harsh considering today’s PC police and in church where was don’t use the word too much ourselves.
Peter, at one point, gets credit for hearing from God himself when he states that Jesus is the Messiah … and then a few minutes later Jesus says to him, “Get behind me Satan!” Now that could cause a church split for sure, don’t you think? I am not thinking Jesus was winking and laughing when he said this. He may have been … I don’t think so.
He comes down from a mountaintop experience with three of his guys and walks into an exorcism gone bad. He looks around and says, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall put up with you? Bring the boy here.” Not real cuddly is he?
There are many more stories where Jesus does not play nice with the guys and others:
The little kids come to him, his ushers chase them away, he brings them back.
In a boat on the sea and a storm comes up, he seems to like he is a bit touchy after the guys wake him up.
A rich guy comes to him and asks how does he get eternal life. After the religious stuff is settled Jesus says, “Well go and sell everything you have and give it to the poor and then come and follow me.” What? We have been dancing around that one for 2,000 years.
I think a full view of Jesus is needed … we need to see all of him. Yes, he is loving and kind… Yes, he was sought out by the least likely. He did get angry with religious people … religious people of all kinds, not just the ones we like to point out.
This Jesus who said, “Come to me all you who are weary,” also said, “Unless you lose your life you will not find your life.” Matt.10:39 The same Jesus who ate with sinners also said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
Don’t sell him short. Don’t just quote, “You are my friends …” without finishing the whole verse, “if you do what I command.” (John 15:14)
I think the whole argument that Jesus was only angry with religious people is shallow. And religious people take many forms. The woman with the sick child was from a place where they worshiped idols … religious. And Jesus kind of lets her know she is religious and wrong. The woman at the well … Jesus reads her mail … she responds in religious tones. Jesus tells her, “You Samaritans worship what you do not know…” Is that being kind? Judging how she worships?
We could say Jesus got a bit miffed whenever man tried to dictate what God was like. Peter is offended when Jesus says he has to die … and we hear this argument yet today. And Jesus rebuked him harshly … because he knew God’s plan to save mankind.<
Let me ask this: How do you hear Jesus responding to the religious person who says, “There are many ways to God?” Does Jesus meekly nod his head in agreement? Does he walk over pat the person on the back and tell him he did a great job? Or does he stand up and say, “I am the way and the truth and the life. And no one comes to the Father except through me.” Or this one, “You can enter God’s kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.”
So maybe the warning is if Jesus only got angry with religious people … be careful.
You might be religious if …