Jesus in your face

So, this great conversation over at Marty’s blog here
lead me to this question:
Is there a single time, in the 4 gospels, where we see an in-your-face, confrontational Jesus, where the confrontation is not with those who are victimizing others?

The ultimate example of an in-your-face Jesus is probably as he runs out the money-changers. These people were essentially extorting money from the less fortunate.
He’s pretty blunt with the pharisees, saudecees, etc. in a variety of places… But again, these folks are victimizing others.
Calling Peter Satan might seem a little out of the range of this description. But in some ways at this point, Peter poses a greater threat to all of us than the money changers and pharisees combined; he’s challenging Jesus’ entire mission on Earth. I also wonder to what extent it’s literally true that Satan is working through Peter at that point: the temptation isn’t really that different than Satan’s early attempts, right after Jesus baptism. In all cases Satan is attempting to subvert and pervert the nature of Jesus reign and the meaning of Jesus’ time on Earth.

The one I haven’t quite figured out is Jesus anger at the tree which he causes to whither… It might be argued that the tree is an object lesson, but Jesus appears to be angry at a big plant. What’s the deal with that?

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

6 thoughts on “Jesus in your face”

  1. I always thought that “Satan” was addressed to the Satan that he’d already met in the desert and overcome (and was hence behind him), because he was tempted by what Peter was saying – like when one overreacts to what someone says because it touches a nerve.

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  2. …and the tree-withering was a touch of honest-to-goodness O.T. divinity wasn’t it? I guess it goes to show what Jesus could have done, being God (and that to be human is to be emotional), and for something that shows so much (to me at least) it was after all only a plant (not even sentient, so not so O.T. really).

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  3. From Wikipedia:

    “The incident with the fig tree occurs in Mark 11 immediately before and then after the incident at the Temple. The cursing of the tree displays Jesus’ power and the power of prayer coupled with full belief in God. Mark, placing the fig tree before and after the incident at the Temple, may be using the fig tree as a metaphor, as Jesus himself might have, for what he sees as the barrenness of the priests (technically, the Temple priests were the Sadducees) and the withering of their teaching and authority due to their lack of true faith. As Jesus hoped to find fruit on the fig tree, Jesus hoped to find ‘fruit,’ the fruit of true worship of God, at the Temple. The Temple, Herod’s Temple, like the fig tree, is cursed. See also Jeremiah 8:13.”

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  4. Ah, the wisdom of Wikipedia; that explanation does seem to make sense: The metaphorically meaningful tree is visibly withered by Christ, and the actual Temple is directly destroyed by the Romans, and remains cursed because of the Muslims. So it’s nothing like kids kicking stones then (my intuitive reading), more like a political speech, delivered masterfully. (I was guessing that maybe the tree symbolised the whole of mankind, and its withering what would have happened had it not produced Christianity.)

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  5. Yeah–I think the fig tree was often a symbol for Israel in any case, or something–although it always did seem like kind of a weird story to me.

    I think the thoughts on the “get behind me, Satan” thing are probably right. Also, don’t you think that sometimes you can get that blunt and in-your-face with people you already have a trust-relationship with, where you might not with people you were trying to bring into that sort of relationship? If the trust is already there, you can sometimes be pretty harsh to make a point, without detracting from the love. And then the religious leadership was being so obstructive to that love for everyone else, that they had to be dealt with harshly, too.

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  6. Thanks everybody for your thoughts. There’s lots here to consider, lots here that’s illuminating.
    One of the details that puts a strange spin on the whole thing is the fact that Mark 11 states that Jesus was hungry. On the one hand, this explains why Jesus was looking at the tree in the first place. I suppose we could go so far as to say that there might be some sort-of symbolism in not being nourished…
    Nonetheless, it gives the impression that Jesus is rather… petulant. (Enigman does a great job of expressing this.) Jesus words after the disciples notice the tree certainly indicate that he’s using it as a teaching moment and that there is lots of symbolism going on. But there is still that simple fact “Jesus was hungry…”
    This is though, a depiction of Jesus humanity that I think I’d never noticed before.
    Jenn, I think you’re so right on about the idea that being in-your-face in the context of a trusting relationship is important. That’s a great point.

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