You see, nothing hurts like having a loved one insulted. If someone questions our taste in music or ice-cream, it’s bad enough…but step closer to the things we love, or even worship – and you’re playing with fire.
We’ve seen this already in the last few days, following the release of a film in the US that denigrates the prophet Mohammed. In Pakistan yesterday, 20 people died in clashes with police.
In the same week, a papyrus was found which claims to show that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. For Christians, that’s a fairly serious allegation. It calls the reliability of the New Testament into question, for starters. Dan Brown made the same claim a few years ago with the Da Vinci Code…but there’ve been other things said about Christ that are far worse.
So as Christians, why haven’t we taken to the streets? How do we deal with the issue of having our God mocked?
I’ve asked Paul to tackle this issue as today’s guest blogger. Here’s what he says:
How do Christians feel about Jesus being insulted?
In following Jesus we follow the Living God who became a weak and vulnerable human being; the God who does not need to assert His power and dignity in order to be who He is. Not only that He was born into a poor family that had to flee as refugees into a foreign country when He was a baby, He grew up knowing what it was like to be without power; to be an outsider; to speak differently; to have a ‘strange’ culture; to be always on the move; to settle into different homes as the family moved around. His home village was ‘the town of Nazarenes’ – in other words it was a town full of the most religiously intense people in the world! This was another thing He had to cope with and keep in a sane and balanced perspective.
So, He spent the first 30 years of His life working everything out; reading the Scriptures; putting it into practice; learning wisdom; seeing how to make sense of it all in day to day life. Then He was ready to tell the world the wonderful and glorious news that He had come down from heaven to tell. He had very few resources: no strategic contacts; no armies; no political patrons; no academic credentials; no money; no home. Yes, it sounds strange but the One who made and sustains the universe, was pretty much a homeless, penniless outsider. He had to learn the lessons of humility not in a textbook or in the ‘theories of heaven’ but in the hard knocks of life on earth. Once He had 100 million angels ready to carry out His strategy… but now even His best friends seemed to constantly misunderstand Him and even oppose His core mission. The world in general wanted to use Him – getting from Him whatever miracles or meals they could.
In the end pretty much everybody rejected Him. He was stripped naked and spat on; utterly humiliated and scorned; laughed at, tortured and finally killed.
When somebody asked me how upset or angry I might feel if people drew naked pictures of Jesus, I had to reply that not only had Jesus in fact been stripped naked and laughed at, but that artists had been painting and drawing naked pictures of Jesus, the Majestic and Glorious LORD God, for nearly 2,000 years. I have some of them in my office right now.
How did Jesus handle this humiliation? How did He react to being stripped naked, laughed at and spat on?
In Matthew 26:53 He said that He could have called on thousands of angels to defend His honour – to silence the insult and blasphemy – but, Jesus explained, His whole mission required this very humiliation, insult, mockery and death.
If He was going to reach us and rescue us then He really did have to go into the depths of naked vulnerability and shameful humiliation. That is precisely where our messed up and godforsaken lives so often take us.
To rescue us from hell, the LORD God had to go through it.
The fact that Jesus could go through all that naked shame and vulnerability, trusting only that His Father would eventually put it all right, made an enormous impact on Peter. When the mob came to arrest Jesus, Peter thought he needed to respond with violence and protest. How dare they insult the Messiah, the LORD God of Israel? How dare they care so little for Jesus when He meant so much to the disciples? Yet, Jesus very strongly rejected Peter’s violence and told Him that those who depend on force or violence will be consumed by it.
Later Peter wrote about the way Jesus behaved when He was stripped and laughed at.
1 Peter 2:23 – “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.”
This last week some church leaders joined leaders of another belief system calling for a global ban on mocking or laughing at or offending sacred or religious things. I’m sure these church leaders mean well, but they have completely lost sight of the LORD Jesus. The LORD Jesus was stripped naked, insulted, laughed at and mocked. He has endured the same kind of treatment all through history and the internet is awash with it. He promised that His followers will get the same kind of treatment.
1 Peter 1:21 – “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”
One of the hardest challenges of following Jesus is learning to die as he did; learning to take the rejection, persecution and rejection and respond only with love, blessing and welcome. Yes, He starts us off with the simple matter of how to deal with somebody slapping us across the face [Matthew 5:39], but He goes on to that ultimate test of sacrificial suffering and naked vulnerability of His shameful death.
It hurts when people speak badly of the LORD Jesus. It makes us gasp with shock when His precious name is uttered as a curse. We are heartbroken when He is ignored, when He isn’t given the love, worship and respect He deserves. Sometimes people write or draw things against Him that we just cannot bear to read or see. Yet, at every point His Holy Spirit shouts at us, reminding us of the example that Jesus Himself set for us.
In the end, there is nothing that melts hearts and open minds so much as this naked and insulted God who loves His enemies so much that He allows this in order to save them.