“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!