October 24, 2020

Why Jesus? (2)

By Chaplain Mike

Will Willimon’s excellent book, Why Jesus?, is an extended meditation on the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed to us in the Gospels.

Taken together, allowed to speak with their delightful peculiarities, these earliest witnesses to Jesus give us a trustworthy, irreplaceable rendition of him, the most interesting person in the world. We must meet Jesus as presented by his first followers, or we meet him not at all. (WJ, xii)

The author invites us, as Jesus himself did, to “come and see — to take a contemplative journey along the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea with the One who came proclaiming God’s Kingdom and demonstrating its power by his words and actions.

Tonight, let’s consider him whom Willimon calls “Vagabond,” “Peacemaker,” and “Storyteller.”

Jesus the Vagabond
The first characteristic of Jesus that impresses Will Willimon is his activity. Jesus is God in motion, ever on a journey, a Man on a mission. Except for a few chapters in Matthew and Luke, we would know little of the birth and childhood of Jesus. However, all the Gospels are united in presenting “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1) as commencing with his appearance and baptism under John the Baptizer. That’s when Jesus hit the road. And he never stopped until he sat down at the right hand of his Father.

What the gospels deem important about Jesus is not his family or his youth but rather his embarkation on his ministry, his forward movement, his mission. Breaking like a wave across dusty Galilee, he thunders forth into a captive land — God at highest momentum. God immediately. Anybody who wants to meet Jesus, to understand or be with Jesus, must be willing to relocate. (WJ, 2)

The Gospels portray Jesus as a man on a missional journey, and we are fellow travelers with him. Willimon reminds his readers that this Jesus will not let us sit down in a classroom, thinking that we can know God by memorizing definitions and accepting explanations. He is the Way, and knowing him means following him, learning like breathless children shouting out questions while attempting to keep up with their father’s adult stride.

Also, Jesus was a “vagabond” wanderer — while on his mission he put little stock in the things that make for comfort, and he encouraged us to take a similar view of settling down. He had nowhere to lay his head, and he invites us to roll out our sleeping bags and join him in sleeping under the stars. We travel light. We learn to depend on the kindness and hospitality of others. We practice living with open hands and non-grasping hearts. In Willimon’s memorable words, traveling with the vagabond Jesus teaches us that we have been “created for more than merely present arrangements” (WJ, 9).

Jesus is God on the move. He moves into the world, and toward us in constantly surprising, bewildering ways that pull back the curtains on God’s Realm and give us glimpses of its reality and re-creative power. “Fear not!” he calls to us, and “Follow me!” Like Jesus’ first followers, we “get to know Jesus only by catching some enigmatic whiff of his glory and stumbling after” (WJ, 11)

Jesus the Peacemaker
Jesus is commonly known as “The Prince of Peace.” But Will Willimon reminds us that the peace he brought, announced by the angels to the shepherds, came at the expense of a lot of trouble.

Jesus brings peace, but his peace often begins as disruption and despair before it is sensed as peace. It is not peace as the world gives, his peace. Prince of Peace Jesus was a threat to world peace. (WJ, 13)

Not that Jesus initiated the trouble he and his followers experienced by their own violent attitudes or actions. Jesus remained firmly committed to “turning the other cheek,” “going the extra mile,” and refusing to resort to the sword when opposition arose. All the way to the cross.

Nor did Jesus rely on political power or the world’s system of justice to bring peace. Nor did he have the kind of clout that comes from having a lot of material possessions or money to throw around. He didn’t deify the state or rely on any of the human machinations we depend on to change the world.

This must have been hard for his more “practical” followers. He had a Zealot in his company, for heaven’s sake, a living, breathing revolutionary who had been actively involved with those who called for the violent overthrow of Israel’s Roman oppressors. He had James and John, “Sons of Thunder,” who wanted to go all prophetic on a group of Samaritans who rejected them, and call down fiery judgment from heaven. He had Peter, who revealed his inner warrior when he swung the sword that fateful night in Gethsemane. I don’t think he was aiming for anyone’s ear. The guy ducked.

Ultimately, it was through violence perpetrated against Jesus that true peace was purchased. “Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross” (Col 1:20). Then he committed to his followers the ministry of reconciliation and called us to be peacemakers by walking in his steps of humility, love, service, and suffering.

Jesus said, “Peace I give to you, but not as the world gives peace.”

I’ll say. (WJ, 24)

Jesus the Storyteller
. . . he did not speak to them except in parables. (Mark 4:34)

Parables, these pithy, strange little stories from everyday life, are the most distinctive — and peculiar — aspect of the teaching of Jesus. . . .

Why, Jesus? Why do you explain God with unexplained stories, most of which lack neat endings or immediately apparent points? It’s as if Jesus says that God is not met through generalities and abstractions; God is met amid the stuff of daily life, in the tug and pull of the ordinary. Yet God is usually encountered, if the parables have it right, in ways that are rarely self-evident, obvious, or with uncontested meaning. In parables, the joke is on us. (WJ, 26)

In his meditation on Jesus’ parabolic teaching ministry, Will Willimon vividly describes the disorientation we feel when we truly hear these stories.

  • What? A businessman did what? He commended a servant who cheated him? God is like that?
  • What? A widow constantly haranguing a wicked judge? — that’s what prayer is all about?
  • What? People who work only one hour get paid the same as those who worked all day? How is that fair?
  • What? A guy finds out some land is valuable, containing buried treasure. He goes to the owner and slyly pays a discount price for it? That’s what embracing the Kingdom is like?
  • What? A Samaritan is the good guy? What are you saying, Jesus?

In my Christian experience, the funny, shocking, surprising, subversive teaching of Jesus has often been quenched by analysis and exposition. We’re not good listeners. It’s hard for us to stay in the moment with Jesus the Storyteller. We want the explanation, the moral, the lesson. We want the punchline to be clear, the message to be practical and edifying. We resist being left hanging. We don’t want Jesus to respond to our questions with even harder questions. We’re impatient. We want the answers so that we can pass the test. Now.

Aside to Jesus: Some people buy books like this one hoping that the book will explain you, make the complicated simple and the mysterious comprehensible, and thereby make you easier to swallow without choking. I guess you aren’t going to let us get away with that, are you? (WJ, 29)

Comments

  1. “We want the answer, the moral, the lesson.”

    We want to know the right stuff, to have the right theology. Once we know it, and can repeat it to other people, we’re good. It’s their fault if they don’t understand or accept it.

    Then there’s Jesus. He says “follow me”. I missed the part where He said “Here are the points on which you must believe exactly such and such a way.” He says “love your neighbor as yourself”, not “teach them correct theology”. He tells us parables and expects us to figure out what they mean and then apply them as we travel the road of life.

    He drove religious types crazy when He was here. Murderously crazy. They understood that He didn’t buy their rules, their pretending to be godly. They really loved their authority, power, money, stuff, prestige and positions. But they didn’t love God, and especially God in flesh. Nor did they love their neighbors. What can make people like that angrier and put them in a more murderous rage than someone who can see right through them?

    If we’re looking for an easy religion, with easy answers, perhaps we need to look to someone other than Jesus.

  2. “In my Christian experience, the funny, shocking, surprising, subversive teaching of Jesus has often been quenched by analysis and exposition.”

    Great observation.

  3. I’ve been listening to his preaching for a while, since Imonk recommended it in a post a while back. Though I certainly am not ready to become a mainline liberal, Willimon has completely transformed the way I look at Jesus in the gospels. I no longer have him so figured out, but look for fresh insights every time I encounter Him. And when I read the Bible, too.

  4. “We must meet Jesus as presented by his first followers, or we meet him not at all.”

    Many historians would object that the historical Jesus differs from the character in the gospels–let alone the object of Trinitarian Christian worship–and so must be reconstructed (if this is even possible). Similarly, the “disciples” in the gospels are to be distinguished from his actual followers, whoever they were. “Judas,” for example, likely never existed, but was introduced by later generations to represent the wickedness of “the Jews” (hence his name).

    This obviously raises the question of the reliability, and dating, of the gospels (as well as non-canonical patristic and gnostic literature). There is every reason to see them as products of a later theological mindset, though arguably genuine material (including embarrassing elements) does filter through.

    • If “Judas” represents the evil Jews and we can see this from his name, then who does “Jude” represent?

      The good Jews? Obviously, he must be equally mythical if we go by his name.

      Did you know that Napoleon is a solar myth and never really existed, nor did Hannibal? Check it out at Mike Flynn’s blog:

      http://m-francis.livejournal.com/185931.html

      Once we start down the road of “This bit must surely be an interpolation because it doesn’t match up with my idea of what is reasonable to accept”, then there is no reason to stop at arbitrary point X instead of arbitrary point Y. Agreed, there’s definitely a place for historical analysis and literary criticism, but the bones of it is this: God or not?

      • No, no–obviously a number of Jud(as)es are mentioned, and I admit that the symbolism is conjecture rather than demonstrable fact. Quite different from your quip about Napoleon, whose historical existence is attested by numerous records. While one might adopt any of various reasonable beliefs, and we may never be able to entirely escape the charge of arbitrariness, surely there must be some means of evaluating such things, without working backwards from pre-conceived beliefs. Remember, the post that inspired this discussion declared that Jesus must be approached through the canonical gospels (interpreted in a certain way), and only through the canonical gospels, when other possibilities exist.

        • Yes, Werner, but if we’re going to assign Judas to the role of “evil Jews as scapegoats” because of his name (Judas – Jude – Jew), then where do we stop with the parsing of names?

          There are people with surnames such as French, English, Irish and Welsh or Walsh. Should a historian of the 25th century conjecture that General French never existed but was retrospectively inserted into the historical records because this legendary soldier was alleged to have fought battles in France during the First World War and was afterwards created first Earl of Ypres and it’s much too coincidental to have a man named “French” who fought in France?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_French,_1st_Earl_of_Ypres

          After all, we don’t have neat historical records with copies of Hannibal’s birth certificate or the Carthaginian tax records for his father either, so we have to take on a certain amount of faith that when ancient writers mention So-and-So, So-and-So actually lived (instead of going all “Golden Bough” on the source documents).

          • I suppose those future archeologists will then have a debate about it, and perhaps resign themselves to never really knowing. If the future legend of “John French” has been reduced to a kind of stock character, in which the narrator is privy to his secret insidious thoughts, and whose actions are obviously calculated to fulfill prophecy, then doubts would be understandable.

      • Nice post, Martha.

        GregR

    • Dan Allison says

      “Many historians” are swept along in the parochial, revisionist, post-modern milieu. As far as I know, N.T. Wright is the best first-century historian and New Testament scholar working today. He would agree with Willimon and thoroughly disagree with you, Werner. I recommend reading his stuff.

      • I find him too swept along in the pre-modern milieu (“parochial” in the original sense). How did you determine that he is the best NT scholar working today? Surely not by his positive reception among evangelicals–i.e. working backwards from certain approved conclusions…?

    • Werner, we are proceeding on the basis that the Gospels are reliable. We will not argue that here, for that is not the point of the post. Willimon has stated his trust in them, and we are starting from that foundation. That is why I included his quote: so that all may know where he stands on the matter.

      Perhaps we will deal with the subject another time, but this is not the place to have that discussion.

    • Not all historians would argue this. And even by this argument, these are really the only way that we have to Jesus, however we approach them. There’s very little extra-biblical record (some, but not much)….

  5. He’s still a mainline theologian who has strayed from the true and historic faith of Christianity. If you reject the “fundamentalist” view of Scripture that tells you that you reject the true and historic faith of Christianity.

    • Mark, these posts are not about Will Willimon. I will not allow any more fallacious, libelous comments. I do not accept the fallacy that if someone I disagree with about certain matters writes a book, I should not read it and cannot learn from him. Besides, Willimon’s views on Scripture are fully within the evangelical spectrum. And besides that, nowhere will you find in the Bible that one must have a certain view of Scripture to be a genuine Christian.

      Mark, no more.

  6. Anybody who wants to meet Jesus, to understand or be with Jesus, must be willing to relocate.

    Just ….WOW…. that might be the most powerful sentence I’ve read in a year or two or three….

    Thanks , Chap Mike, this sounds like a must read.
    GregR

  7. I don’t recall in the parable the man buying the field with the treasure paid a discounted price; however, he does sell all that he owns to buy that field. I get his point: the parables at face-value should shock us.

    Also, sometimes Christ expects us to “relocate”, but often he meets us right where we are. He told the man from whom He cast out the legion of demons to stay put, when he wanted to follow Jesus. Sometimes we want Jesus to give us the big vision to move or change jobs, but instead he tells us to be content where we are. I’m sure Willimon is saying we need to “relocate” from our pre-conceived notions about Him. That’s not a bad thing.

    • Good additions, Sir Ox; back to the point about “the shepherds returned ” meme from Chap Mike last week. I saw it more as “relocated in attitude and expectations” as well.

      GregR

    • Well, in terms of “relocating” I think you’re right that he’s primarily talking about preconceived notions. In the demoniac episode, think about the folks whose pigs were driven to death by the demons. The owners were certainly faced with a choice: “relocate” their sense of wealth from property to the Lamb of God, or reject him, stay comfortable with material security, and as a result throw him out of town. They chose the latter.

    • Would these “preconceived notions” include traditional Christian beliefs? I often notice how little of say, the Sermon on the Mount has percolated into anything that churches actually do or teach.

    • Well, since I see the field as the world, the treasure as the church, and the purchaser as Jesus Christ, he certainly didn’t buy it at “a discounted price”…in fact, I believe he sold all that he had, and bought it.

      (This interpretation didn’t originate with me. I remember reading it 50 years ago in a little booklet called “The Kingdom of Heaven Parables” by either M.R. DeHaan or his son Richard….

      • I think the point Willimon was trying to make (and I may have misstated him) was that the guy who found the treasure found a way to purchase the land on the sly, without the first owner realizing its true value.

    • Gerald Daniel says

      Does anyone here believe they are the son of man? If you do then you should know Jesus. God is the spirit of Love. God is Jesus and God is love and he says he will pour his spirit on the son of man(Jesus). we were all born from are mothers wound. We were giving life and to live for eternally, we must not die. The wages of sin is death. Worms will eat the body also describe as hell for eternally. You have 2 choices when were born LIVE OR DIE,(HEAVEN OR HELL). USE YOUR WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE FOR GOOD NOT EVIL, REMEMBER THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH AND JESUS PROMISED ETERNALLY LIFE. THE BIBLE ALSO SAYS GOD AND JESUS IS ONE(DEF;JESUS CHRIST=SON OF MAN, SON OF GOD; AND GOD IS NOTHING MORE THEN LOVE USE YOUR UNDERSTANDING TO UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH B/C I AM THE TRUTH AND KNOW NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH. BE AWARE OF THE PRIEST AS I ALSO TELL YOU THAT I DID TURN THE TABLES IN THE CHURCH. THE WISE MAN WILL SEEK AND FIND ME. PRAISE GOD. ENJOY THE TREE OF LIFE AND THE WATER OF LIFE THAT MY FATHER AND I HAVE GIVING YOU, FOR ME AND MY FATHER ARE ONE..EMAIL Geralddaniel36@yahoo.comFOR MORE DETAIL AND I WILL TEACH THE TRUTH. I AM THE LIGHT AND THE WAY. PEACE

  8. “This will help to remove the difficulty that the parables are plainly for the teaching of the truth, and yet the Lord speaks of them as for the concealing of it. They are for the understanding of the man only who is practical – who does the thing he knows, who seeks to understand vitally. They reveal to the live conscience, otherwise not to the keenest intellect.”
    -George MacDonald

    • Hey, Patricia, I just read this yesterday as I am reading all of MacDonald’s Unspoken Sermons. They are great, though not always easy to read.

      • Hi JoanieD,
        Unspoken Sermons changed my life. Let me know when you get to “Justice.”

        • Hi Patricia. I skipped again to the “Justice” sermon. Wow! Anyone who wants to can read it at:
          http://www.ccel.org/ccel/macdonald/unspoken3.viii.html but be aware that it is long and like any of MacDonald’s writings, you need to read it when you will have no distractions and when you are not tired, because you really have to focus to read his writings.

          Here are some of the parts of the sermon that I liked best. Jeff and Chaplain Mike, you are wecome to edit this comment because it will be long, but I just couldn’t leave anything out!

          “The notion that the salvation of Jesus is a salvation from the consequences of our sins, is a false, mean, low notion. The salvation of Christ is salvation from the smallest tendency or leaning to sin. It is a deliverance into the pure air of God’s ways of thinking and feeling. It is a salvation that makes the heart pure, with the will and choice of the heart to be pure. To such a heart, sin is disgusting. It sees a thing as it is,—that is, as God sees it, for God sees everything as it is. The soul thus saved would rather sink into the flames of hell than steal into heaven and skulk there under the shadow of an imputed righteousness. No soul is saved that would not prefer hell to sin. Jesus did not die to save us from punishment; he was called Jesus because he should save his people from their sins.”,/b>

          “One chief cause of the amount of unbelief in the world is, that those who have seen something of the glory of Christ, set themselves to theorize concerning him rather than to obey him. In teaching men, they have not taught them Christ, but taught them about Christ.”

          “God accepted men’s sacrifices until he could get them to see—and with how many has he yet not succeeded, in the church and out of it!—that he does not care for such things.”

          “Truth is indeed too good for men to believe; they must dilute it before they can take it; they must dilute it before they dare give it. They must make it less true before they can believe it enough to get any good of it.”

          “Jesus is the creating and saving lord of our intellects as well as of our more precious hearts; nothing that he does not think, is worth thinking; no man can think as he thinks, except he be pure like him; no man can be pure like him, except he go with him, and learn from him. To put off obeying him till we find a credible theory concerning him, is to set aside the potion we know it our duty to drink, for the study of the various schools of therapy.”

          “I believe that Jesus Christ is our atonement; that through him we are reconciled to, made one with God. There is not one word in the New Testament about reconciling God to us; it is we that have to be reconciled to God.”

          “it is God who has sacrificed his own son to us; there was no way else of getting the gift of himself into our hearts. Jesus sacrificed himself to his father and the children to bring them together—all the love on the side of the Father and the Son, all the selfishness on the side of the children. If the joy that alone makes life worth living, the joy that God is such as Christ, be a true thing in my heart, how can I but believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ? I believe it heartily, as God means it.”

          • I’m glad you also liked it. It changed my theology. Truly. Made me able to walk away from my Baptist baggage. Helped me to see the “good” in Good News.

            I discovered a few years after I read it for the first time that I am not the only one on whom George MacDonald had great theological effect (besides Lewis, I mean). Check out http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/06/george-macdonald-justice-hell-and.html# on Justice if you want more exposition on it.

            If you like his take on GM’s Justice, you might try Dr. Beck’s series on Douglas Campbell’s “Deliverence Of God.” At 1200 pages, it’s far easier to read his synopsis than to tackle the work itself. Unless you just have oodles of time on your hands. And it affirms much of what you will have read in MacDonald.

            Blessings,
            Patricia

          • “Truth is indeed too good for men to believe; they must dilute it before they can take it; they must dilute it before they dare give it. They must make it less true before they can believe it enough to get any good of it.”

            Isn’t this being done routinely as we preach some kind of moralism instead of real grace ?? This is a shocking and sobering statement from MacDonald, and makes me rethink how “good” my “good news” really is.

            GregR

  9. At breakfast with my friend Joe not long ago, we were talking about how so many see Christianity as a set of questions on a test, and we need to study so that we can pass the test.

    “Following Jesus,” said Joe, “is a lot less like getting all the answers right on a test, and a lot more like having a wild affair with the teacher.”

    Preach that someday and see what kind of reactions you will get.

    • I like that. I’ve gotten “the look” for recommending that belief is not a mental checklist, but what you actually live out.

    • I think I will use that quote for my Facebook status update, but maybe replace “wild affair” with the more gentile “intense relationship”.

      • …replace “wild affair” with the more gentile “intense relationship”.

        🙂

      • Then you take the teeth out of it, Mike. If anything, add to it. Make it, “wild, passionate, intense affair.” Jesus wasn’t always nice, you know…

        • It does, but it also removes the sexual connotation.

          • And, thus, it makes it less threatening and more acceptable. Isn’t that what we are always trying to do with Jesus? Make him less threatening and more acceptable?

          • You make a good point Jeff, and one with which I agree. But do you know how many complaints I have read on here about “Jesus is my lover” worship songs? Perhaps another analogy works better.

            I agree that we tend to make Jesus less threatening and more acceptable. With my small group I have been trying to counter that by taking them through the book of Mark, and showing them what a radical Jesus really was.

            • Well, most of those “Jesus is my lover” songs are just sappy, poorly done and, in a word, Wrong. They tend to make Jesus my girlfriend. No–that is too safe. Girlfriends are nice and safe. I sense a post coming on about this…

          • Not to get off topic – OK I am off topic – I just always equated the Jesus is my boyfriend thing to aligning more to lust than love – now a Jesus is my spouse who I’ve been with for 20 years would probably be more accurate….

          • One word: “bridegroom.”

      • Is nobody going to remark on the “gentile / genteel” pun?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      At breakfast with my friend Joe not long ago, we were talking about how so many see Christianity as a set of questions on a test, and we need to study so that we can pass the test.

      And what’s the passing grade to get beamed up?

      • Apparently it is impossible to pass, but having an affair with the teacher will convince him to let you squeak by. (Or if you like, supply all the correct answers and award you a perfect score.)

        • Werner, you give us WAY too much credit, I don’t think it’s the teacher who is getting rewarded by the passionate affair (though HE might see it that way, that’s worth a thought). The reward is ours, and HIS attitude of gifting us is permanent and irrevocable.

          peace on all the Werner clan
          GregR

  10. October 1974 (this ties into some of the topics I have responded to recently…)

    In bed at home recuperating from orthopedic surgery on my left femur: steel rod inserted thru middle of bone from knee to hip. Leg broken in a rather dramatic auto accident ~6 weeks earlier. The perplexing results of that accident causing me serious contemplation about its outcome. Why did I end up underneath the car after being thrown out of it when we backed off the cliff?

    How did I survive, let alone my 2 roommates? What intervention affecting the law of physics could have produced the outcome? I could not visualize it happening. Maybe because I blacked out as I slid down the seat toward the driver’s side back door after we slowly rolled off the cliff?

    How long was I out? I woke up laying directly underneath the car that had come to a rest upright on a fallen log with the rear tires on that log, my legs draped over that log, & the muffler staring me in the face once I came around. Paranoia set in as I surveyed the damage. My left leg twisted at the break so that the slight bend of my knee had my left foot strangely pointed at my right foot at an odd 90 degree angle. Both legs right under the rear axle. The gas tank was cracked on the way down & now dripping next to my right foot & I was underneath a hot muffler with smoke still seeping from it where rust had eaten thru it in a few places…

    Longer story short: on that bed at my mother’s house contemplating this crazy puzzle that seemed to violate any logical conclusion. And during those very intense mental gymnastics, my life was forever changed…

    As I was considering the missing pieces of a puzzle that only consisted of an end result, my self-awareness, or my consciousness, or my mental functioning was invaded by The Presence…

    I cannot explain it any better than this: my consciousness & mind racing trying to figure out the result of the accident suddenly retreated before Jesus. It was as if my thoughts/consciousness bowed before the divine presence with a clear division/distinction made between what I was thinking & this presence that now commanded my attention in my self-awareness. And with a ‘knowing’ that was as close to an audible voice spoken inside my mind, The Presence simply satisfied my curiosity with this: “I am responsible for the outcome of the accident…”

    No instant video replay. No diagram or insight into how it was carried out. No religious reference point either. No introduction using my religious training or my theological understanding. Jesus invaded my thoughts & it was as if I bowed down with eyes closed at His appearing. No condemnation. No special effects. No scriptural proof texts. And I started to laugh! My curiosity was satisfied. I had my answer even though no details included. After a few minutes He spoke again: “You can go back to the way you were, or come, follow Me…”

    And the rest, they say, is history…

    • Great story… God has a plan for you and he wasn’t done yet….

      God does seem to communicate with us in interesting ways. For me I was in prayer one day and I had the briefest image in my mind of looking through a doorway from a darkened room and seeing a staircase ascending. It was gone in a flash but the image stayed with me… it was shortly after that I began delving deeper into my faith – from a heart persective rather than from the head which is my preference and began reading the Ascent to Mt. Carmel by St. John of the Cross…. In a nutshell I was sitting on a plateau and hadn’t attempted to grow in a while – I believe it was God calling me to move forward once again.

    • Simply amazing story…

  11. Thank you for this reminder that following Jesus is not about adhering to a set of propositions but about a wildly impractical, challenging and subversive adventure. Jesus didn’t ask Peter which doctrines he adhered to; Jesus asked if Peter loved Him. That’s the heart of it. Definitely adding this book to my must read list.

  12. Well, looks like I’m going to have to read this book.

    You’re comment:

    “In my Christian experience, the funny, shocking, surprising, subversive teaching of Jesus has often been quenched by analysis and exposition. We’re not good listeners. It’s hard for us to stay in the moment with Jesus the Storyteller. We want the explanation, the moral, the lesson. We want the punchline to be clear, the message to be practical and edifying”

    I can’t tell you how hard it is to find people in a Bible study, or even a simple conversation who will not simply stay on the subject of Jesus himself and not shift it as quickly as possible to a “therefore, we should…” type observation about our personal lives. Aside from the practical tips that most want to reduce him to, there seems to be a constant temptation to shift the focus of the dialogue onto ourselves. Even if it’s in a positive, uplifting sort of way. In this kind of environment, it’s nearly impossible to be wounded by the Lion of Judah, much less revere, follow, befriend, or worship him. If I can’t be bothered to maintain any kind of rapt attention to Jesus, how do I expect to follow him where he’s going? I’m as guilty as any…

    • I understand you – applied bible approach instead of just resonating in the Word…. sometimes we need to sit with the words and just put ourselves there rather than do. I confess my wife is better at that activity than me…. I beleive it has something to do with patience…..

    • Great post….. how about “THERE IS NO “TRY”……ONLY RAPT ATTENTION”

      I am at the head of self-absorbed parade…….
      GregR

  13. I hope my question will not create a stir, but I would be curious to know if Willimon has an identified theological position? Would you describe him as liberal? conservative? moderate?

    Just to know…

    • Why does this matter? Doesn’t the truth of what he says or writes remain the same regardless if he’s a conservative or a liberal?

    • Those labels don’t really hold much water. Most of those I know who would consider themselves “conservative” hold liberal views in many areas, and vice versa. I would call Willimon my brother, a man I would gladly share a meal with to hear his heart.

    • Tom, if you’re interested in what you read here, I’d encourage you to read him for yourself. I don’t like defining people by labels.

      • Hi Mike,

        be sure that I was not trying to put tags on anybody. Just tried to clarify the issue for me.

        As for the book, it sounds interesting, but it will have to wait: the purse of this Europêan pastor with three kids is limited…

        Bye.

        • Tom, believe me, I’ve been there. I think you’d enjoy the book. Some of Willimon’s theological positions would qualify as left of center, but I would put him firmly within the evangelical spectrum of the United Methodists here in the U.S.

    • To my liberal friends, I am a conservative. To my conservative friends, I am a liberal. It is both a happy and unhappy place to be.