Extreme Jesus – how tradition kills.

Many of us believe that Jesus was a sinner even though we stake our own salvation on his sinlessness. Crazy? We shall see. How about the blind Jesus – unable to see government oppression and under orders to say only good things about Caesar? Is our Jesus the head of a xenophobic cult, excluding people who are different? People have found justification for their words and deeds in Jesus, no matter how ungodly or selfish. Do we recognize the Jesus who is ready to call down fire on people who reject an interview with us? It is amazing how often we deny our dabbling in the two. I suppose there is a little bit of the Zebedee boys in each of us: we want to hear approval from the Master and expect promotion. Christ is first and exclusively Saviour – forgiver-of sins.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Mark. 10:35 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” Mark. 10:36 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Mark. 10:37 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” Mark. 10:38 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, Mark. 10:39

What claims have we made since those days when the Son of Man was earthbound? I do not care to catalogue the movements of the Way, leaving the number of churches in my neighbourhood who look suspiciously at the neighbouring churches to witness to the scores of traditions (again, I will not make a list) that have shot off or risen up from the Way. Many of us will be surprised to hear that there is a Way and only one Church and it is not our way nor does our group decide what is church. We have not moved past cliques and vengeance.

48. And said to them, Whoever shall receive this child in my name receives me: and whoever shall receive me receives him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. 49. And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in your name; and we forbade him, because he follows not with us. 50. And Jesus said to him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

Luke 9:48-50

54. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? 55. But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of. 56. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

Luke 9:54-56

Tradition killed the lioness: she was not sufficiently curious. When John the Baptist told his audiences that Moses and prophets were finished guess who bought it? It was the taxcollectors and prostitutes. “Scandalous”, we say, “Look who is following the Baptist”.

No curiosity, no hunger

Since we have no documented tradition of divine revelation when compared to Messiah’s contemporaries (who did not accept the Baptist’s proposition) how can we claim to be disciples of the One greater than the Baptist? A cross dilemma confronts everyone who listens to the Nazarene and tries to come to his view of life. Something in us has to die. We can think that all they had to do was read the Scriptures to see all the prophecies and recognize Mary’s boy as God. That was not going to happen. Even the chosen companions were still slow of heart and foolish at the end of three years up close with His Majesty.

For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Matt. 21:32

No one in any age can have the encounter with Christ and continue with their tradition – of any spiritual value – as if it mattered more than the saving grace.

Struck out in the first inning

They were not going to believe even when someone rose from the dead who told them he was going to do so. Nowadays people want you to believe something other than Messiah’s death and resurrection. They think that giving up sin (which is mere baptism talk, promise, pledge or vow) saves them or makes them children of God. You can see how that pushes the Saviour out of the way!

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Luke. 24:25 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Luke. 24:26 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke. 24:27

They were not in need of a good translation or a vision or dream to be arrested by the message Yeshua brought. They spoke his language: we do not. If the Spirit who inspired the Scriptures does not inspire us to interpret the sayings we find impressive then our recitation of the ancient language and our understanding of the customs of antiquity will drop us off in a dark alley where we say what Scripture says or what is traditional.

They needed a certain kind of faith; a faith that was rare in Palestine. Faith in Moses was rare (and bewildering!) because Moses himself predicted the end of Mosaic tradition. The arrival of the prophet to whom everyone should give full attention, upon whom their lives depended. (Acts 3:22-24) is still the turning point for people turning to God. If you can’t hear Moses and John saying “It ain’t me” you need new ears.

You can see that we have no excuse – we have no prophets, or patriarchal tradition – to block out the view of the Son of man as the only hope. So we create versions of Jesus to impress our audience that we know Him. The saddest version is the one that has Yeshua as a follower of Moses. To use the popular term, we say he was born subject to the law and kept the law because that obedience made him qualified to be God’s lamb. That is so off the wall it is amazing that anyone believed it.

(1) Christ does not need the Law to be qualified to die for the human race: He was born certified as king and saviour. Forget that and a dark room closes in on you.

(2) No one should imagine that Yeshua needed to hear “behave yourself”. Any such exhortation, especially using the words of the Sinai Covenant would mean that Yeshua was not a just man but one of the following

  • lawless
  • disobedient
  • ungodly and sinners
  • the unholy and profane,
  • those who strike their fathers and mothers,
  • murderers, (1Tim. 1:9)
  • the sexually immoral
  • men who practice homosexuality
  • enslavers
  • liars
  • perjurers (vs 10)

Priestly Jesus

Then there is the Yeshua who does everything the Levitical priests do. How mad can teaching get? Christ has a priesthood and it takes no cues from the law governing the tabernacle or temple services or the festivals. There is no laver, altar of burnt offering, no lampstand or Presence-Bread Table, no Ark and Mercy Seat. Christ moves those models (toys) out of the way to be priest, sacrifice and mercy seat. He is the way to God, He is the God we seek, He is the Life we cannot be without. The maturity of ancient Israel did not come through the operations of the priesthood. The only likeness of Christ’s saving act to the procedures of the Tabernacle is the shedding of blood, displayed in the decree for the laying down his life and taking it back. Immediately the tabernacle is left in the dust with its certain death, no effective treatment of sins and its guilt, and its repeated bloodletting.

New priesthood and new law

11. Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? 12. For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

Hebrews 7:11-12

Since we cannot allege from the Scriptures that Yeshua is a second Moses or a priest like Aaron we try to make the law a permanent feature of salvation (even though it had no part to play in the Exodus or the journey to Canaan). The law was violated from the moment God/Moses wrote it. So we exploit the king identity. We ask people to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord (Lord = king).

Perfect and unchanging law

If Jesus cannot say “We are done with this, let us move to that”, He and any other anointed Ruler is in reality just a figurehead trapped in the talking points of any group. The idea that once God has said something he cannot change it might seem like security but that quality is what makes an unthinking robot reliable. The laws of the Medes and Persians says that laws cannot be changed – a convenient tool for installing good or bad practice, and for making a response to a development permanent. The priesthood needs one because the one in Exodus and persisting all the way into New Testament times has nothing to say to Christ as priest (saviour-sacrifice-priest).

Since we alo have God saying, “I will not accompany you to Canaan” and “I will not drive out the Canaanites” we know that Medo-Persian permanence is not a priority. We can forget the talk and recognize that Jesus was not interested in cleansing a leper using the lengthy and detailed prescription. Do we support his opposition to stoning people whose guilt is established?

Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.

Exod. 23:30

Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

Exod. 33:3

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Exod. 33:14

King Jesus

Everybody needs a saviour to see God’s face and be acceptable to him. His salvation makes kings – family members – of all who come to him. Yeshua is more Lord of the waves of the sea than he is Lord of any disciple or group of disciples. The fig tree, waves and demons provide us with ample evidence that claiming to be surrendered to Christ by calling him “king” is a lot like being up the creek with no paddle. The precedent for receiving Jesus as king reeked of hypocrisy and malice. It was not covenant people who came to worship the Christ child, and there was no interest in Israel in a Davidide king beyond a political desire to resist the Romans.

In fact, we suspect that the “Saviour and Lord” or “Saviour and King” labels lend themselves to abuse by people who want to put salvation as secondary after other considerations such as distinctive beliefs and practices. We teach our children that doing what God told the ancient Israelite to do is the end of the matter (between God and humankind) then we try to cover that error with a baptism that is clearly an enrollment as keepers of the covenant.

Covenant keeper warned

There is no promise by the new covenant people. It would be no different from the old covenant since humans, saved or lost, forget and fail. “All that the Lord says we will do” is repeated often without context and the outcome is the same: (1) no covenant, (2) wandering and (3) death.

If people want to take infection (leprosy or other uncleanness) to the “priest” or wait for merits of Christ’s atoning death, let them go right ahead. If they want to spurn God’s gift and turn it into a revocable loan, let them. Since one sin violates the whole law we can understand the perpetual chaos and anxiety that people are in for when the law is boss in place of Christ.

Stuck in Kindergarten

There is no glory streaming from the operations or “vessels” of the levitical priesthood; there is no truth to be discovered from its furnishings or operations. All of it is role play and models, pure kindergarten. That is not debatable like what some people call theology or truth. Real truth, all of it, is the person and work of the man Christ Jesus.  The more extreme the Jesus the more false the witness.