The Costly Subversion

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” ~ C.S. Lewis

 

Old Lewis certainly had a strange way of trying to sell something. Then again, maybe he wasn’t interested in trying to sell something. Maybe he was trying to be sincerely honest about the faith he embraced and the journey it entails. Far too often we are presented with a gospel that obfuscates the reality that Lewis was trying to expose: Following Jesus is a costly endeavor. Jesus is often offered to a consumer culture as the ultimate solution to rid us of those problem stains. “Come to Jesus and he will make all your troubles go away”, while not overtly stated that way, is the gist of the message.

Contrast that with the passage we’ll be reading this Sunday in our study of the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 8:18-22.

Jesus sure has a warped sense of how to achieve church-growth, doesn’t he? I love how v18 reads in the Message: “When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake.” Suddenly his ministry is becoming popular and attracting attention, and his response is to bail immediately. What do you believe is behind this strange move?

So far in Matthew’s gospel we’ve seen the subversive nature of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is turning expectations on their heads by challenging the very systems that were expecting his arrival. Everything he does and teaches seems to carry the intent of creating an upheaval of the status quo. This little section is no different.

When faced with sudden popularity, Jesus doesn’t begin the process of working the crowd and taking polls to see what will generate a greater favorability. He doesn’t try to drum up as many supporters as he can by offering give-aways or doing his best to present himself as culturally hip. Nope. He does his best to evade the masses who have only a surfaced curiosity, and when some do seek to commit themselves to him, he does his best to dissuade them!

Jesus was clearly not reading all the email articles that get sent to me. He’s doing it all wrong, at least according to the experts. And they are experts – they’ve grown gigantic, massive and wealthy churches.

v19-20 – Why do you think Jesus responds the way he does to the scribe who offers to commit himself to the cause? Jesus had places to sleep – he stayed with Lazarus in Bethany, he stayed at Peter’s house in Capernaum…and Peter had a house to stay at. There is some hyperbole in this, but there is a sharp, deeply cutting message in it, especially to 21st Century American Christians. What message do you get?

V21-22 – On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “not at all” and 11 being “this goes to 11”, how harsh does Jesus’ response to the man who wants to bury his father seem to you? Why do you think Jesus would say that? What do you think the phrase “let the dead bury their dead” means?

By the way….my name is Rob, and I’ll be teaching this Sunday at Eastgate. What a happy passage to come back to, huh? Actually, I’m hoping you find it a refreshingly bold challenge, like I do. Hope to see you then!

6 comments

  1. Seriously what Mike said!!! Welcome back!
    I love Jesus’ style…Maybe he ran away from the crowd because he wasn’t interested in fans..He knowing people’s hearts,surely knew their intents and wasn’t interested in entertaining shallow interests, he was after sold out followers.. Maybe he knew the religious folks always came around when crowds ensued and didn’t feel like dealing with their insincere inquiries either…He wasn’t going to cast his pearls before swine so to speak…
    I love how absolutely real he is too…The scribe pledges undying loyalty and Jesus says hold on here buddy you might want to consider the cost…. This may look like all peaches and cream, miracles and popularity but let me tell you how we really live…I’m thinking the message we might take away is that following Jesus may not look like the “american dream”… Blessed as we learned in the beatitudes is not the fairytale life…
    Right off the cuff the statement “let the dead bury their dead” is definitely an 11…had to look that one up for sure. Finding that it could have meant let me go home and attend to my dad until he dies sheds some light there…Jesus doesn’t want anything or anyone to come before our call to follow him… Enlightening was what Spurgeon said, many causes both social, political and personal are needful and commendable, but if we are called to preach the Gospel and we are, let us give oureslves wholly to that calling..(paraphrased of course) Our loyalty always lies in our kingdom calling! We are the privileged for sure not necessarily the popular….Glory to Him!!!

  2. It seems that the two men are in direct opposition. The scholar is ready to go immediately, seemingly without reservation. The disciple wants the go, but predicated on his terms, seemingly altruistic and deferential, to bury his father.
    In the first scenario, I find Jesus’ response surprising, and his choice of animals telling. My general understanding of this passage is that Jesus was poor and his response indicated that He did not think the scribe was ready to lay aside his wealth. However, back to the animals, foxes were shrewd and cunning and Solomon wrote of birds as carrying spoken curses and reporting to others in Ecclesiastes. Perhaps Jesus saw through his duplicity and spoke directly to it, so much like the Word does now dividing asunder. Can’t imagine what the scholar thought at Jesus’ response. But if this was the case, perhaps he felt exposed, as his intention was to infiltrate and report back.
    As to the young disciple, generally my understanding is that Kingdom matters supersede traditional/societal norms. When it came to family matters, Jesus spoke in unsentimental terms. To his family and mother, he called strangers his true family, to the populace he cautioned them not to love their families more than God, and even called his mom, “woman” on the cross! There is this common denominator that can’t be drowned out by a myriad of voices: traditionalism, religion, social convention, greed, power, the list is exhaustive, but represents the human condition. It is to follow Jesus, not that it’s easy or necessarily “feel good” as Lewis indicated, rather, difficult. But these mornings, with a cup of coffee and His Word, make the journey encouragingly possible.

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