There are times in my Christian walk when I get to a point of comfort, a place where I think I am reaching the goal that I have been aiming for. It’s at these times that the Radical Jesus pops his head around the corner to remind me of just how insipid my walk really is.
Jesus is so radical that sometime we find excuses for the things he say. We try and explain them away with a nice little story or we tell ourselves that he didn’t really say what he said.
Here’s an example of what we do. Jesus said:
"Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
So we invent some story about a camel walking on it’s knees through a doorway in a gate. In other words we tell ourselves that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said, he really meant something different.
Jesus was a radical. He used a lot of parables, I’ll accept that, but when Jesus was straight talking, as he was here, he meant what he said. In other words – if you are rich it’s time to be very worried.
I’ve never bought the nice sweet simple story of a camel on its knees, it’s twaddle. Jesus was far too radical for that, he was really, really, really saying that riches do not get you into the kingdom of God.
Here’s another example of radical thoughts from the mouth of Jesus:
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus goes on from these words to drive into the detail.
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne… All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
On revenge and justice:
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Is there anyone who could stand against such standards – surely not. Those standards are just too radical.
Don’t get me wrong here I’m not sitting beating myself up about how terrible I am. When Jesus, the free radical, makes an appearance I am reminded, again, of my utter reliance upon him.
His statements remind me that there is absolutely no chance of me working my way into a place of favour with God without the inestimable grace that he makes available to each one of us.
After his camel through the eye of a needle statement the disciples responded:
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
It’s not about us – what a blessing.