What kind of Jesus do you want?
Some years ago, I went to visit a friend in a hospital. When I inquired about the patient, a nurse asked, “are you related?’ I told her I was his priest and she told me ‘I didn’t look like a priest’. ‘I am too young to be a priest’. I’m not sure what she meant! The problem with Jesus in His hometown is that He didn’t look like a Savior. He looked like a carpenter’s kid! Many others had problems like that, because He was from Galilee, hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors, and clashed with the priests. What kind of Savior are you looking for? One who looks good and says what you like to hear? One who knows the Truth and has the power to save you? Jesus Christ is that Savior. He invites you to eternal life.
Somebody has written a poem for “The Student” magazine in a college. The poem was about a student who had his Jesus in a bottle so that he could take Him out when it was convenient and then put Him back on the shelf when it inconvenient.
What kind of Jesus do you want? From the time we are children to this very day we hear a lot different stories about Jesus. We all grow up with different images of Jesus. The problem with all these versions of Jesus is that He is so much more. We falsely associate Jesus with Kool-Aid and sugar cookies and ice creams.
Jesus always has challenged people’s misperceptions of him. “How could the same people who yelled, ‘Hosanna!’ on Sunday turn around and yell ‘Crucify Him!’ on Friday?” The cheers turned into jeers in an alarmingly short time. How do we solve this mystery? I think we solve it by looking at the kind of Jesus they were looking for, and the disappointment they felt with the real Jesus.
What kind of Jesus were the crowds looking for? There were Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law, the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the homeland people and the disciple. Each group of people wants a certain type of Jesus!
What kind of Jesus did the Disciples want?
If you are looking for any of those, you will be disappointed too. But note that the reason we are disappointed is that we are looking for the wrong kind of Jesus. A friend wrote me yesterday with a wonderful quote she heard on the radio. Each time one lady discovers someone claiming to be an atheist, she responds, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in.” And when they do, she usually observes, “I don’t think I would like that kind of God either.” Our disappointments in God usually come from a wrong view of God. As J. B. Phillips said in the title of his wonderfully little book, “Your God Is Too Small.”
What kind of Jesus are you looking for? How about looking for a Savior? You know, it really doesn’t matter what the crowds were looking for. It doesn’t matter what the Pharisees or the Zealots or the Disciples were looking for. It matters what kind of Jesus that you looking for?
Prophet Ezekiel did his ministry of preaching in 593 B.C. He preached just before the most devastating time in the history of the people of God. Did people pay any attention to what he preached? Certainly not!! Six short years after he began preaching to them, the holy city of Jerusalem was captured and destroyed and every last person in Israel was carried off in chains to exile in Babylon. What is worse, Ezekiel saw it coming and told people. He told them it was God’s way of punishing them for being so thick-skulled and hard-hearted. But they refused to listen. The chosen people didn’t believe him. What happened to them as a result? Terrible slavery and misery! Several years later, we see in the bible that Softened up by the experience of misery they could no longer deny, they began listening to their old friend who had never given up on them and who reminded them of the God who had no intention of giving up on them either. Today’s gospel tells us how Jesus, the real messiah, was rejected by the people of his hometown, Nazareth.
The hometown people were asking unimportant questions, so that they do not need to change their life. Or a kind of brining excuses! We have heard, over the years where catholic also ask unimportant questions. Questions like: Who said that it is the real body and blood of Christ? Who said that I need to go to confession to a human being who also makes the same mistake? Who are you to tell me when to come and when to leave the church? Who said I can’t be sexy in the church? Who said I can’t have sex before marriage? Who said I can’t divorce my partner? This is exactly the people of Nazareth did to Jesus. What will happen, if I don’t attend mass on all the Sundays? In the gospel of Mt.8/34 also we read like this “They begged Him to leave their neighborhood” Christ less neighborhoods! Jesus has been thrown out of many neighborhoods, as He was thrown out of his hometown. He usually gets thrown out for several reasons. Bible says “they took offence at him”. Therefore, he was not able to perform any mighty deed there. He was amazed at their lack of faith. This is one of the most shocking statements in all the Gospels – that Jesus could not perform miracles. Not that he would not but that he simply could not.
Deep down, many neighborhoods, many cities and many people don’t want the presence of Jesus with them. Because, Jesus comes into a neighborhood and calls people to repent, change, and obey. Then He casts out the devil out of us and gives us his lasting peace, where people have to accept him as the Lord of their lives. And if Jesus is the Lord of our lives, then we can’t be the lords and do our own thing; we must do His thing. We throw Jesus out of our neighborhoods because we refuse Him entry into our hearts as our Lord. If Jesus did what we told Him to do, we would let him stay in the neighborhood. But, since He insists on being Lord and God and so do we, there’s not room for both Jesus and us in our neighborhood. Our pride, sin, selfishness, and rebellion must go, if Jesus is to stay.
Many today refuse to believe. For some, the problem is pride. For others, it is a lifestyle they don’t want to change. For others, it is a lack of interest. For others, there are some intellectual hangups. But underneath it all, there is a refusal to believe. Jesus is in an important religious place with people who know him well. His intentions are good and he has great power to heal and to help. Yet in this place, he couldn’t do nearly as much as he wanted because the people refused to believe and didn’t expect him to be able to act. How often have well-intentioned religious people blocked the power of God to work among them because they have refused to believe in Jesus’ power? More often than it ever should have!
We need to listen when God calls us to change our lives; we need to listen when God says, “you can do it!” We need to listen when God says, “I forgive you!”
If we listen to God tell us how precious we are, our sins don’t destroy us, our limits don’t define us; God determines human worth. Today’s gospel is a sad story of people who met Jesus and left without a blessing. As we meet Jesus today in his word and in the sacraments let us resolve, not to leave without a blessing.