Jesus was a nice guy. Most of the time. But he wasn’t always nice. I am a nice guy, most of the time. My family can tell you when I am not. I always try to be nice out in public.
I have been in Carrollton long enough that I now have two clearly defined roles in our community. First, I am now the DP (Designated Prayer). I have been asked to say prayers before golf tournaments, board meetings, Rotary clubs, motorcycle Poker Runs, 10 K walks and building dedications. I don’t mind at all doing that and in fact, I am honored to do so. I am also, because I have written some books, the last minute fill-in at service clubs, when the scheduled speaker cancels. The night before, they call me. “Look, our speaker cancelled at the Lions Club, can you fill in?” I am never, by the way, the scheduled speaker, but I am the pinch hitter. My program usually consists of reading stories from one of the books, which is probably why I am the substitute program and never the scheduled one.
Anyway, whenever I am out in public and representing the church, I am always mindful, and I present the nice Jesus. I say prayers and give speeches that are nice. When called on to pray before an event, I don’t quote to them what Jesus actually said about public prayer, which is “the hypocrites pray in public (Matthew 6:5).” That’s what he said, but I don’t repeat that because I don’t want to make waves or do anything that would not represent the church well. And when I read from my books and tell stories, it is always nice, funny stories. I want to be invited back, because it helps me sell books, so I am nice. Jesus, I think was a nice man, but he wasn’t always nice.
We hear a lot about approval ratings in today’s political climate. Well, Jesus was really popular after he fed the 5,000, but not so much after saying things that offended people. In John 6, Jesus gave some hard sayings and folks started deserting him like roaches exposed to the light scurry for cover. John 6:60 kind of sums up the problem with these words, “When many of Jesus’ disciples heard these words, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult, who can accept it?’”
And when Jesus heard them grumbling, he responded, “Does this offend you?” All of that prepares you for the mass exodus described in verse 66, “Many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer followed after him.”
Jesus had a way of gathering a crowd. When he healed the sick, fed the hungry, touched the needy, and raised the dead, he gathered a crowd. If you start filling people’s hungry stomachs with fried chicken and raising Uncle John and Aunt Sue from the dead, pretty soon, you will have a following. You will have your own 501c3, your own tax deductible corporation, and you will have a church with a full parking lot and a billboard with your picture on it. You will be in high cotton. You will preach and then sign autographs. You will need parking lot attendants to handle the parking and the sanctuary will be so full, there will always be talk of moving out and building one that is bigger. Raising the dead and feeding the hungry will do that. Writing books doesn’t have the same effect on people.
Just when Jesus was on the brink of stardom, he would say something that would hack people off and like the text says, “They would stop following him.” What would he say that would offend? Oh, things like “When someone hits you in the face, turn the other cheek.” (Say what?) Things like, “Love your enemies and pray for those who hurt you.” (Is he kidding?) Things like, “Blessed are you when people hate you and revile you on my account.” (I don’t want that!) Things like, “None of you can be my disciple unless you deny yourself and take up a cross.” (Did he say cross?)
“Play that back again,” you say. “I’ve got to watch that on U Tube when I get home. I can’t believe he said that.”
OK, if you invite me to say a prayer before an event or speak as a last minute sub at your service club, I won’t embarrass you; nor will I cause a ruckus. I will be nice. I promise.
~ Pastor Steve