October 8, 2011
The Approachable Jesus
He had such bossy disciples, and supplicants. Try that with anyone else! Or don't.
Read the Gospels and count how often people just walk up and demand his immediate action on some point or issue. (No seriously, please do. I haven't got time to be thorough just now.) Maybe most of these commands Jesus doesn't obey, but I think some he does. (Update Pending...)
In general, perhaps, the ones that got into the record are the ones where the contrast was instructive. "Lord, do such and such." And Jesus No, I tell you, and here's why. But no matter how many NO answers he gave them, they kept coming back with more direct, bossy instructions.
Now, to be fair, this may have been partly because of a cultural difference, a sort of ancient 'blue collar' or poverty mindset that cut straight to the point. Some demands from the twelve may be due to their heady position as his inner circle. (Note to self: some time, research whether Kings and Emperors' counselors also gave 'advice' in the imperative mood.)
Or - as I quickly admit that I'd very much like to believe - was this also just something about JESUS? Did he make the disciples, and even folks he'd just met, feel somewhat empowered? Was this part of his reputation? A reason why crowds followed him with so many requests? Was Jesus known for doing what people told him to do? Or did Jesus' very presence give people the idea they should take genuine opportunity for initiative-taking?
Again, part of this is probably the ancient world being different from ours. Kings and rulers may or may not have heard imperative 'advice' from advisors, but they certainly didn't have crowds of peons chasing after them issuing demanding 'suggestions' all the time. Yes, most westernized, "civilized" folks have been pretty well tamed, and the natural bent for the rest of humanity isn't too far from *take what you can if they'll give it, demand things from everyone who doesn't punch you or threaten to*.
But still, people kept coming to Jesus. They came and they came and they kept coming. And they kept on demanding.
Even the disciples, who surely had the most opportunities to be shut down, to be gently scolded or not-too-subtly dressed down - not just on each point, but on the very attitude of attempting to share Jesus' own agenda setting decision power - not even the disciples seem to have stopped coming again and again with their bossy instructions for Jesus. Despite all the times he rejected their points, point for point, in general, they kept on making suggestions.
I've known "christian" leaders who cast withering glances at people who even dared to ask whether they might suggest ideas toward future decisions. I've seen both men and women in leadership use nonverbal cues like posture and feigned inattention, just to make clear that their position wasn't meant to be open for sharing with others. In my own world, I've rarely seen anyone fail to get the point. And in my visits to poverty-land, where the reaction is more public, harsher and quicker, even there the powerless one making suggestions learns pretty quick when the leader doesn't want her suggestions.
And yet Jesus, in the Gospels, kept on receiving these impositions. Repeatedly.
It says one of two things. Maybe both. Either (1) Jesus somehow made it clear that he really didn't mind when the disciples were bossy like that, no matter how many times he rejected each specific demand. Or (2) there must have been plenty of times when they told him their ideas and Jesus said "Sure. Go ahead. That sounds pretty good. Do that." Again, both could definitely be true.
At the very least, without any specific research today, here's a hypothesis I assume will hold true.
The fact that we have so many rejections on record proves that people didn't get tired of giving the Lord straight up orders. Whether he gave in or rejected the majority, or if there is any discernible pattern... I'll hold off on attempting to figure that out. But this one thing I do think must be clearly embraced.
He must have been one extremely approachable Lord.
And yes, he remained "leader". Think about that, practically. Obviously, no one held Jesus' agenda hostage with sniping, pouting or conniption fits. He often made his opinions quite forcibly clear. At the same time, however, evidently, Jesus remained immanently approachable. Everyone obviously kept feeling free to express their opinions quite openly, right to the end.
What a man. What a Lord.
What a loss.
What a goal.
"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."
-- Isaac Newton