The Impossible Contradiction
People followed Jesus for many reasons.
Some were intrigued by his miracles, others were eager to hear and follow his teaching and some were just plain curious about this person who had created such a ruckus. I, also, was very impressed by all of these things, but mostly I loved him because, being who he was and all, he was so incredibly . . . human. Now here is a man who clearly demonstrated his divinity for all to see. He is not just a god like the ephemeral Roman and Greek gods; he embodied everything that we understood God, the Father, to be.
One cannot be the same as God without also being God, and he was that. The Father could not express himself any better than in his Son, this Jesus of Nazareth. Yet this, this God is living and doing what God does in a human body. Who could give witness to his humanity more than those of us who were with him day and night? We watched him trim his fingernails, wash his face, eat his dinner and heard him snore. We had also seen him perform miracles and change people in ways that only God could do. It could be said that we had an agenda, that we were prejudicial, but no one knew him better than we did; and we knew by this time who he was . . . the Son of God, the Messiah, God with us. What an anomaly! What an impossible contradiction!
Yet this incredibly divine Jesus is not too different from me. He was cold, he was warm; he was hungry, he was full; he was tired, he was energetic. He could get irritable, and he was uncommonly sensitive to the needs of others. I'm not too good with this last, but all the rest is very much a part of normal human life. My life. I like that. His being God, the very fact that he is also so human is my point of contact with him. In him is built a bridge between the Infinite and the finite. What a magnificent, loving anomaly!
Another thing that makes me love him is his almost comical aversion to religious pretense. It would be truly amusing if devotion to law weren't so serious or its cause so sinister. I remember when some law teachers came from Jerusalem and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" Jesus almost couldn't suppress his mirth.
These people do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, which is, of course, the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. They seem to enjoy making great show of the ritual washing of cups, pitchers and kettles. These things had become "God's standards" for them. What noxious rubbish! We always washed up before meals, but in all my time with Jesus, from the time we all flocked around John the Baptist to this very day, I have never once seen him participate in this kind of mindless ceremony.
I understand now that these things were intended to teach Abraham's children, to teach everyone, that adherence to such ceremony and Law alone was a hopeless dead end. A worthless exercise in religious pretense. Jesus helped us see that in the things he said and in the things he did. Only in love do we reflect the true character of Jehovah God.
Jesus' response to these men expressed that very thing: "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your absurd tradition? In doing this, you nullify the word of God! You see what you want to see and select from the Scripture those parts that best serve your evil purposes. Your hearts are utterly void of compassion toward those who need you most--and you do it all in the name of the Father. Let me tell you that in doing these things you alienate God. You do not draw close to him. The Father has no interest at all in your traditions."
"You insufferable hypocrites! Isaiah was speaking of you when he said,
but their hearts are far from me.
That old prophet was right about you!"
Later that day, over lunch, Peter said, "Well you've done it again, Lord."
"Don't you know that these legalists were offended? They are furious with you now."
Dear Peter. He could be such a monumental ass at times. I suppose Peter considered Jesus reckless. But Jesus was accustomed to this. People questioning the consequence of his words didn't seem to bother him too much. He was relentless, giving no quarter, no apology. "That's what I do, Simon," said he, meeting Peter with a challenging gaze. "Their fury is evidence that I have spoken the truth. Offense is what I intend. Leave them to themselves."