When the current pope, Francis by name, was elevated to his current position it was obvious he held very different positions from his predecessor. It’s not often that so dramatic a shift takes place in the church, to the extent that a major motion picture is made about the event.
I recall a news broadcast trying to explain the situation to Americans unfamiliar with the two men. The first newscaster poses a problem likely experienced by many of their viewers: “After reading about his stances, I can’t figure out if he is a conservative or a liberal.”
The second responds, “He is neither; he is a priest.”
Sometimes people just don’t fit into our neat little boxes we’ve prepared to describe people without really getting to know them. Jesus, like Pope Francis, was one of those people that just didn’t fit into peoples’ preconceptions.
“Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home.
The first half of Matthew chapter nine records Jesus’ encounters with several parties that just don’t get Him. The Teachers of the law, the Pharisees and even John’s disciples. While there may be some genuine seeking after the truth in these scenes, the questions bely an interest in boxing Jesus into already drawn lines.
Righteousness is Jesus’ day and in Jesus’ circles was a big deal. Who is righteous? What does righteousness look like? What does righteousness let you do that you would not otherwise? I think for each of these groups there is some feeling that they already have a handle on the answers. So they are checking Jesus’ credentials. Is He one of us? In modern parlance, is He woke like us?
Jesus is not. Not by the standards of His day. Probably not by our standards. It does not take a great deal of insight to observe that though Jesus encounters and shows great compassion for slaves on several recorded instances, He spends no time seeking to free them from their masters. Jesus didn’t abolish slavery even though it was staring Him in the face. While Jesus might be labelled the Ultimate Social Justice Warrior, that label does not fully encompass His life and mission. I suspect no man made label could.
Jesus’ authority was too much for the teachers of the law. Jesus’ affinity for ‘known sinners’ offended the Pharisees. Jesus’ urgency confused John’s disciples.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Lord, I confess my ignorance of You. You are beyond me. Speak to me anyway.