Saturday, January 03, 2009

From a discussion on Bonhoeffer at Internet Monk:
on 02 Jan 2009 at 12:49 pm iMonk
I said that good leadership of the disciples in the Gospel of Mark still produced jerky disciples. It’s a major point of the book. Jesus never taught them any of the stupid things they said and did, but they used ther status as his followers to be jerks.

A fascinating theme that I could stand to read more about. Mark Driscoll joked in the past that Jesus picked twelve guys and one of them was still Judas. The joke is funny and true as far as it goes but the truth is that all the disciples were bad apples.

There are any number of things we could observe about the disciples as a group that demonstrate Judas was not the only problem disciple, just the one who betrayed rather than abandoned Jesus to His death. They thought that by being disciples of Jesus it was okay to call down fire from heaven to destroy people they found offensive. They saw fit to rebuke people for casting out demons in the name of Jesus just because the man wasn't part of their dozen. They bickered among themselves as to who was going to have the greatest legacy as a disciple of Jesus. They had their parents try to pull rank as elders within society to wring from Jesus a promise that the kids would have pride of place in the kingdom to come. They told kids to scram when they wanted to meet the Lord.

To say that Judas was the bad apple on the team misses the point of the four gospels, the disciples were utter losers who reveled in thinking themselves special at the worst times while being predictably fickle and fearful at times when they could have trusted in Jesus most. What's more they at various times thought that being disciples of Jesus entitled them to look down on others or consider themselves fit to do things they clearly weren't up for. After some successful ventures in casting out demons and healing the sick as Jesus' ministry progressed there came cases where the disciples couldn't cast out the demon and Jesus had to come cast out the demon Himself.

Jesus began to speak in terms that revealed He was about to die, the last thing these disciples wanted to have happen to the one they considered God's annointed one who had come to destroy the Roman empire. They were supposed to be the advance guard, the hand-picked elite of Jesus to usher in the new kingdom that would redeem not just the culture around them but the world. Jesus was starting to say things more and more that made no sense. They began to have to ask, "Lord, is this parable for us or for someone else?" Even after Christ had risen from the dead they still asked Him when He would destroy the pagan nations. They still imagined things in terms of Jesus, after having risen from death, being about underwriting the future as they imagined it in their minds, as they wanted things to be for the world. They were, in a phrase, still jerks for Jesus.

It is amazing how Jesus' disciples can see Him as a blank check for writing in whatever they most want. In the tradition in which I have grown up Jesus was invoked as a key to revival and cultural transformation. The whole, "If my people who are called by my name ... and I will heal their land" became a form of Americanism. Whether we frame it in terms of "We need God in America again" or frame it in terms of a mission to "redeem culture" Jesus can finally be invoked as nothing more than a prescription to make sure people or our pet target demographic start behaving the way we want them to. We can persuade ourselves at this or that point that it becomes all about Jesus but that is how we are so easily able to deceive ourselves. We think it is all about Jesus without realizing that like Jesus' OTHER disciples we have really made it all about us.

Jesus never taught them any of the stupid things they said and did, but they used ther status as his followers to be jerks.

Right there is the quote that sums it up. This, more and more, is something that impresses me about Christians I have met. I have seen things that were shameful, shameful displays of pettiness, anger, resentment,bitterness, greed, fear, I have participated in these things and all have been given a sanctified gloss of being done out of right principle for Jesus' fame. No, I don't see it that way anymore.

No one can be so graceless as those who talk about grace. There are few jerks so jerkish as those who sanctify their jerkish behavior as being servants of the King who are just looking for Jesus to be glorified when it is finally about them, not Jesus, about them wanting to be recognized as Jesus' special brigade. Peter said that if everyone else abandoned Jesus HE would not. And what did Jesus tell Peter?

We know what happened--the man who was most certain he would stand by Jesus no matter what denied even knowing the man over and over and swore up and down "I don't know the man." All it takes is the loss of the things we really place our security in and then we reveal our true hearts. Someone does something we don't like or says something we don't like and we ask the Lord if it is all right to call down fire from heaven to destroy that person. We go to Him ourselves or through proxies to ask for a special place and special recognition in the kingdom of God.

It is easy to be tempted to require of others or ourselves things that Jesus does not require of us and to insist on spiritualizing away the things that Jesus does require of us. The disciples who broke heads of wheat to feed themselves were the ones who rebuked a man for not being in the in-crowd while casting out demons in the name of Jesus. The disciples who were afraid when Jesus was about to calm the storm were the disciples who were confident enough to argue about who was going to be greatest in the kingdom.

Most of us, since we have the gospels on hand to read, are too smart to actually talk to other people about these sorts of delusions we may be tempted to harbor that the disciples had! But sometimes in less guarded moments we might share things with our kids about what we think God may have in store for them. Or we may announce to people what we hope God will accomplish that is quite simply what WE want for our own lives and legacies.

And like Judas even our outrage can reveal a sinful heart in expressing something that might appear to everyone else to be the highest good. Judas declared that the money spent on the perfume that she used to wash Jesus' feet could have been used to help the poor. Not that Judas cared at all about the poor, he just liked to take money from the common purse to whatever end he saw fit. After all, he shared the common purse and he was able to do through that things like booking a room for Jesus' posse. He was potentially the most responsible with money and a sharp business guy, which is why Jesus might have entrusted him with such a great responsibility. But that didn't mean Judas didn't cut corners on things that were important and it didn't mean that he actually acted out of compassion.

You can spend three or four years of your life with God Himself and still be innoculated against the love and compassion He displayed. You can be given the ability to cast out demons and heal the sick but still betray Him. Judas was able to do all these things yet still assume that he could do what he wanted with the common purse and then say that "This money could have been used to help the poor." There are times when moral outrage (real or imagined) allows us to focus on the failures of others at the expense of considering ourselves. The folly was in the saying, I think.

But Jesus likes to choose disciples who make the stupid mistake of appropriating His name and presence to get what they want. I don't get it. I don't know why it happens but I have lived just long enough to know that for some reason Jesus likes to use losers like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and Moses. He likes to transform them over their lives into people we can ... eventually, admire. It can be said that God is the only hero in His own book but what about Psalm 15 that says that the godly of the land are heroes? They don't start out that way.

But eventually Peter and the other apostles are transformed by knowing who Jesus truly is and they stop invoking Him or His presence to get what they want and start learning how to proclaim the good news, that Christ is king of all and has risen from the dead. Less than this message is simply disaster, following the example of disciples who do not know better than to use Jesus as a means to their end. They sought things like the overthrow of Rome, of the re-establishment of Israel as utmost among nations (not that they ever were, really, but that's another topic). They wanted Jesus to, as the modern parlance might have it, "redeem culture". Jesus had something better in mind. He redeemed THEM.

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