"I was absolutely thunderstruck by the extraordinary reality of the man I found in the Gospels. I discovered a man who was almost continually frustrated. His frustration leaps out of virtually every page: “What do I have to say to you? How many times do I have to say it? What do I have to do to get through to you?” I also discovered a man who was frequently sad and sometimes depressed, frequently anxious and scared.... A man who was terribly, terribly lonely, yet often desperately needed to be alone. I discovered a man so incredibly real that no one could have made Him up.
It occurred to me then that if the Gospel writers had been into PR and embellishment, as I had assumed, they would have created the kind of Jesus three quarters of Christians still seem to be trying to create . . . portrayed with a sweet, unending smile on His face, patting little children on the head, just strolling the earth with this unflappable, unshakable equanimity. .. . But the Jesus of the Gospels—--who some suggest is the best-kept secret of Christianity—--did not have much “peace of mind,” as we ordinarily think of peace of mind in the world’s terms, and insofar as we can be His followers, perhaps we won’t either." Scott Peck (Taken from Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew)
I wonder sometimes, which Jesus my church is following! Are we following the Jesus described above? The brooding, frustrated, anxious, scared, depressed, sad, desperate, and lonely Jesus described by Peck? The "real" Jesus? The one who suffers from the same human maladies? The "all too human" one found plainly in scripture? Who the hell would follow such a character?
It is no wonder the church spends most of its time avoiding this Jesus. They avoid him, like the drunk uncle who is no longer allowed at family functions. Nobody wants this guy around, not because of his embarrassing tattoos of scantily clad pinup girls, but because of his honesty. You never know what he will say, but you know it will always be brutally honest. Nobody wants that at a fancy dinner party, or a family backyard BBQ for that matter.
I like to think of my Jesus in this way, "real," stumbling into a dinner party, and taking a seat at the table of "sinners" and "tax collectors." All the "respectable" guests, appalled, whispering, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" You can't keep anything from drunk uncle; he hears everything, and always has some sharp retort. "Go and learn what this means. 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice' (said with drunken sarcasm). Of course, the respectable guests are aghast! I love drunk uncle.
It's no wonder, the well-churched don't want to hang with this Jesus. He is too unpredictable. He makes you feel uncomfortable, like at any moment he is going to call you on your bulllshit. This Jesus is too much of a risk to have stumbling around the church on Sunday mornings, or busting into a church council meeting on Tuesday night. It's not hard to imagine Jesus flying off the handle upon hearing some of the silly church stuff we find so damn important.
Imagine this Jesus showing up at church, unannounced, one Easter morning. I wonder if he would even be recognized, or if he would recognize himself in any of the pomp? I like to think that he would be the guy walking around the Narthex, the one that none of the "welcomers" knows how to approach. Or the guy sitting in the back pew, twisting and turning; the guy no one dares to engage for fear of what he might be thinking. He is the avoidable one, the one who we secretly know just doesn't fit in, the one that slips in, takes a look around, and then (with a collective sigh of relief) is never seen again.