I think it’s in Surprised by Joy, where CS Lewis observes that we all have a hard time remembering people as they really are. In speaking of a deceased partner, Lewis confides how even when the grave mound is still fresh, we started to think of our spouse in rose-colored terms. Their rough edges smoothed out, the scandal of their sins retreats to the background and we focus on their best moments. In short, we remember a different person, a person of our imagining. When this illusion is made a matter of public record in a funereal eulogy, author Orson Scott Card describes it, aptly, as the final act violence and retribution that can be done to a person.
Have you noticed people do this to Jesus?
Lamb of God, I look to thee,
Thou shalt my example be;
Thou art gentle, meek and mild;
Thou wast once a little child.
~Gentle Jesus, meek and mild by Charles Wesley
We don’t sing this song anymore; at least not in the evangelical circles that I have been orbiting. But we do have more than a few like it, Christmas carols mostly. And I have no problem with it; no one hymn could accurately convey the fullness of that man Jesus. Our catechisms oft fall short.
But Matthew won’t leave it alone. He keeps throwing in these pericopes, parables and patterns that keep us asking: “Just who is this Jesus?” Just when we think we’ve got Him figured out, Matthew throws us a curve ball: something unexpected, something that bends our expectations of what Jesus would say and do.
Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.
Yes, Jesus is meek and mild. Jesus was a little child. But He wasn’t in diapers at 33.
He was telling parables that explained that if you didn’t figure Him out, you were in trouble. He was making whips to herd merchants out of the temple, like they were no different than the cattle they were peddling. Yes, He had pity on the woman caught in adultery. But He also told her to “go and sin no more.”
So try figure out this Jesus character. But don’t get too comfortable with your own particular conception of Him. Keep coming back to Scripture; let reality challenge your illusion. Because the illusions creep in pretty regularly.
In short: Seek Jesus and seek disillusionment.
Lord, I want to know you. Not for who I wish you were, but to know you in truth.