“But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you?”
In our day and age I feel we’ve gotten a bit accustomed to the offensiveness of Jesus. The original slap-in-the-face of his ministry and words have had several thousand years to feel like–to those who are familiar with his gospel–mild chastisement. We are no longer offended by Jesus’s words and actions. We are no longer taken aback–or to employ one of the over-used words of our day: we no longer find Jesus “appalling.”
Jesus said and did some of the most counter-cultural, world-changing and radical things human kind has ever experienced. Most of Jesus’s active ministry centered around trying to show the world what the Kingdom of God will be like, railing against those in authority, and doing so in a way that generally ticked off those who were in power at the time. Even his own disciples (witness the quote at the start of this post, which comes from the gospel reading for Clement of Alexandria whose feast we celebrate today) have a difficult time with what Jesus says: “so whoever eats me will live because of me.” (John 6:57b)
Even more challenging is what Jesus asks of those who would be his disciples. Phrases like: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me,” (Matthew 19:21) and, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
Taking one point from the sermon I preached on Sunday, I wonder what kind of Jesus we are waiting for this Advent? I wonder which Jesus we hope will show up in our heart and in our lives? Mostly, I think that we are hoping for this kind of a Jesus:
But, who we really get, in the end is this Jesus:
The disciples had it right: following the teachings of Jesus IS difficult (impossible?). However, to be truly followers of Jesus, to truly wait for the Jesus who is the Christ, the Messiah, we must hear the words of our Savior, and be offended, shocked anew. Shocked to action; shocked to prayer; shocked to live into our Baptismal Covenant; offended at how wrong the ways of the world are, and how abundant and outrageously loving and faithful God truly is.
Advent is a time for us to take stock of our faith; to look deep inside us and recognize where we have turned our back on the love that Jesus gives to us as he dies on the cross–because, we think his selfless action”is difficult” to accept. What is so special about ME that God would die for ME?
Advent gives us a time to re-focus our commitment to our faith, even to be offended afresh by what Jesus points out to us. Advent is a time to wait, with hope, that God will open our hearts to receive God’s love so that we believe.