The Jesus Scandal

The Jesus Scandal

Jesus was not fluffy

Feasting is an age-old and universal function of fellowship, it is man’s most intimate means of promoting fellowship. As we eat we share our dreams, experiences, emotions, hopes, and news, and our personalities nurtured.

God provides all that we have from the plants and animals to our gifts and talents to harvest and uses those things to not only nourish ourselves but to bless others with as well.

In the early Church, there was a common meal or communion that came to be known as Agape or the Love Feast. It always took place in connection with The Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately, it also became a source for degrading it which we read about in 1 Cor 11. As a result, the Agape meal was eventually done away with. The Lord’s Supper was a ceremonial act of remembrance instituted by Jesus when he shared his last Passover meal with his closest friends the night before he died. Of course, this was quite scandalous for any reason, but then Jesus was a scandalous sort of guy.

The Jesus Scandal

The Bible tells us that Jesus was The Messiah. The Savior of the world. God’s only Son. It also tells us that he was sinless. The unblemished spotless lamb of God. The Bread of Life. Born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, which provided the only lambs suitable for sacrifice in the temple for the atonement of sin.

He was also:
A habitual lawbreaker.
Rebellious
Dirty (Unclean)
Offensive

If we look at Matthew 9 we see some folks bringing their paralyzed friend on a stretcher to Jesus to be healed.

1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

Scandalous! Blasphemous! Arrogant! The Pharisees believed that not even the Messiah (not that they believed that he was the Messiah, but other people did) had the authority to forgive sins. Only God Himself was qualified to do that.

3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 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.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.

We are not told what the Pharisees reaction to this was but you can imagine that their blood is boiling. They were folks that loved their laws and religiosity, and here is this blasphemous, arrogant, trouble-maker walking all over their traditions. We know from the next passage that they were stalking him.

9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.”Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Matthew was a Jew who had been appointed by the Romans to be the areas tax collector. He collected taxes from the citizens as well as the merchants that were passing through the town. The tax collectors took a commission on the taxes they collected, but most of them overcharged and kept the profits. This resulted in the Jews hated them because of their reputation for cheating and because of their support for Rome.

Jesus called him and he immediately got up, left a very lucrative career, and followed Him. From here we know that Matthew invited Jesus into his home for supper.

10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.

Scandalous!

In Jesus’ day, rabbis and other spiritual leaders were the highest members of Jewish society. They were the snobby, uptight, upper-crust and everyone looked up to them. Again they really loved their laws and traditions, and they avoided those they deemed “sinners” because they had a “clean” image to maintain. Tax collectors, infamous for embezzlement and their cooperation with the hated Romans, definitely fell into the “sinner” category.

To the Jews, the supper table is a Holy Place. It was the place in which they partook of the sacrifices that were brought to the temple. Meals were not only sacred, they were personal and intimate. Supper time was reserved for those closest to you.

11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

As Jesus’ ministry grew, so did His popularity among the social outcasts of society. Now that Matthew was part of His inner circle, Jesus naturally had more contact with the pariahs in Matthew’s circle. Spending time with the publicans and sinners was part of Jesus’ mission:

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

We should note that Matthew and his friends weren’t engaging in sinful activity. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:33 to not be misled for:“Bad company corrupts good character.”

If Jesus was to reach the lost, He must have some contact with them. He went to where the need was because “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Praise the Lord, the Great Physician makes house calls.

If we jump over to chapter 15 we see what Jesus really thinks about keeping up appearances through religiosity. Now I should let you know, in keeping with the context of this next passage that Jesus has just been in town getting mobbed and manhandled by all kinds of sick people.
The religious folk had some pretty crazy laws about coming in contact with anything that was impure or unclean and there was a whole bunch of things they considered unclean. Bacon, shrimp, catfish, bacon, dogs, non-Jews, bacon, oh and especially sick people. Now keep in mind that Jesus and his crew have been all over the place, healing the sick and in a few cases raising the dead. They weren’t traveling from town to town on the church bus. They were walking so you can imagine that they are dirt, and dusty as well.

1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem, and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Mark gives us a little better perspective on this in Chapter 7 of his gospel.

1 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

As I put this together I started to wonder the same thing, although not from a religious standpoint. I mean these guys have been touching sick people, dead people, dirty people, not to mention all of the road grime and sweat they had acquired from their travels. Not only are these bad manners, it really is kind of gross.

This is what Paul refers to as using the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; … the weak things of the world to shame the strong. in 1 Cor 1:27

Now Jesus… I love this guy. He never actually gives a direct answer. He always answers a question with a question and when he does it’s in a way that is meant to bring shame on them. So disrespectful.

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 ” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”

These leaders loved their laws and traditions, not because of their passion for God or his word, but because of the elite social status that their positions as experts of the law brought them.

Jesus knows all about the games the Pharisees are up to and He calls them out in public just as they have tried to call Him out. Whenever Jesus gets into an argument with someone, He always wins, and before the Pharisees can think of a witty comeback, Jesus calls out to the crowd of people who are watching the scene and shouts:

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Again Mark touches on something here that Matthew leaves out.

19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

Jesus has just said that it doesn’t matter what you eat—nothing you put in your mouth is going to make you unclean. Um, hello—this is a direct contradiction of God’s Law. He may as well have just spit in their faces.

Back to Matthew

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

Yea, I think that was kind of the point

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Not only was he a blasphemous lawbreaker, to the Pharisees this comes off as extremely arrogant. Not exactly the Sunday School picture of Jesus we see with little kids sitting on his lap and little lambs lying at his feet. He’s really an in your face kind of guy. Even with his own friends, who let’s face it, aren’t exactly the brightest bulbs on the tree.

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

You ever watch House? House an arrogant, pompous, know it all. He has little tolerance for anyone that doesn’t know what he knows. The problem is most of his colleagues fit into that category. When I read this I picture Jesus with a cane in a lab coat.

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

But teacher, you said, “The Bible tells us that Jesus was The Messiah. The Savior of the world. God’s only Son. It also tells us that he was sinless. The unblemished spotless lamb of God. The Bread of Life. Born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, which provided the only lambs suitable for sacrifice in the temple for the atonement of sin. “

So how can you be spotless, blameless, and sinless and still be a dirty, rebellious, lawbreaker with no regard for the authorities?

Simply put Jesus was sinless under the Laws of God, but he was not under the laws of Moses. He was the fulfillment of the laws of Moses.

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