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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

4/28/10 Was Jesus Crazy?

6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

     Historically Christians have been called crazy.  The Roman consul said to Paul, "You are out of your mind."  The Romans accused the Christians of atheism since their God was invisible; and cannibalism since they talked about eating the body and drinking the blood in communion.  Some think it crazy when a Christian martyr does not recant the faith in persecution but would rather die.  There was a woman in Sudan during the civil war who was told "convert to Islam or we will not feed your son."  She did not convert.  Having faith in the unseen when most people only see the seen is often perceived as crazy.  Most think to walk by sight and not by faith is the only way to live. 

     In this context, Jesus has sometimes been called "crazy."  John Knox (not the reformer but a theologian of the 60's) said that Jesus was crazy for making claims that he was god.  The Jesus Seminar folk (think Marcus Borg or Vanderbilt and Harvard Divinity Schools) say a similar thing.  They say it would be crazy for Jesus to make claims that he was the way, the truth, and the life, so this must have been made up by his disciples as something he ought to have said.  They say this with no evidence, just wistful thinking.
     But what if, Jesus really was the way, the truth, and the life- and what if he kenw it?  Should he not say it lest people think it crazy? 
     Interestingly, the gospels do not shrink from saying that some thought Jesus was crazy.  Jesus made a claim in Nazareth (Luke 4) that Isaiah's story of anointing was fulfilled in him and their response was to try to throw him off one of the cliffs right outside the town (you can see the cliffs around Nazareth even today).  Jesus' mothers and brothers tried to get him to shut up, or keep him from going to Jerusalem sometimes lest he be hurt (Mk. 3, Lk. 8, 14). Jesus said, "I and the Father are one" and immediately the religious leaders tried to stone him.  John and the other three orthodox/synoptic gospel writers, do not shrink from portraying Jesus as a marked man because of some of the things he said.  In fact, if Jesus did not say anything unusual and only played it safe as a Jewish mystic (as the Jesus Seminar folk openly say), the real question is, "then why did they kill him?"  The image of Jesus is not some glossed over, shiny, perfect painting of a Jewish mystic, but of someone who shook things up.  He shook things up not just with his parables of the prodigal son and the beatitudes, but also- and more radically- with his claims about himself.  Perhaps the parable that we studied in yesterday's blog- the parable of the tenants indicates Jesus' claims.  Surely since it is a claim of Christ in parabolic form (which the Jesus Seminar loves), then it must be authentic- it is even found in their favorite gospel- The Gospel of Thomas.
    Jesus was not another Confuscius, Plato, or Buddha that his followers turned into a god centuries after their deaths.  He accepted the worship of others (a very non-Jewish thing to do) before the resurrection.  I guess the response of the Jesus Seminar folk would be to say that it must have been added later. 
    It is a very convulted and complex theory to say that every claim Jesus made about his messiahship and his divinity was added later.  Each writer would have had to work awfully hard to make up these words of Jesus- for they are radical, unusual, unique and shocking words.
    To say (as some say and imply) that Mark made them up about 25 years after Jesus died while eyewitnesses were still alive and could challenge it would be difficult.  As far as we know, no eye witness has disputed the words of Jesus in his day from Mark, Matthew, Luke or John (while the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was disputed from the beginning amd then some).  Rather, the early church universally accepted these documents as accurate portrayals of Jesus pre and post resurrection. 
     Perhaps, just perhaps- Jesus did make radical and unique claims about himself!  Perhaps he made these claims not just because He thought he could back them up, but because he really can back them up.  Such claims keep us from yawning at some philosophical-Jewish-mystic Jesus- but cause us to fall down and say with Thomas "My Lord and My God!"
     Skeptics will misinterpret the uniqueness of Jesus as craziness every time.  It would be like interpreting the downing of the flights in Europe by volcanic ash as "crazy."  To allow that God would love us enough to come down in human form as only one, unique, one-and-only, only begotten, son seems crazy to us too.  Yet, has not this one person changed the world?  He changed the world not just with his words about love, but with his claims about God and himself. 
     In the old Soviet Union, they called Christians insane because they believed in something they could not see.  But in the end, it was the communists who were proven wrong about their ideas of sanity.  Sanity primarily has to do with truth, not with what others think of you.  Jesus, I believe, was the most sane man there was.  He certainly taught like it.  His disciples staked their life on that.  His sanity was a result of being true to who he was and reality.  God (as Maker and Sustainer) is the source of all reality and truth.

Prayer: Lord, keep me from caring about the world's view of my sanity.  Help me to see the real sanity is based in you.

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