October 28, 2020

Why Jesus? (4, conclusion)

By Chaplain Mike

I have found Will Willimon’s fine book, Why Jesus?, to be a perfect companion for my Epiphany meditations on Christ’s earthly ministry. Today, we’ll do one final post. Here are a few more of his vivid, memorable descriptions of our Savior.

On Jesus the Magician:
Maybe what we call “natural” is a perversion of what God intended and what we call “supernatural” is the way the world really is. Maybe the miracles, which to our eyes appear “supernatural,” are, to the eyes of God, the most “natural” thing in the world. Though Jesus was accused of turning the world upside down, maybe he was turning the world right side up. (WJ, 61)

On Jesus the Home Wrecker:
But “family values” is not Jesus’ thing. We know all about the prophet Mohammed’s kin; we know next to nothing about the family of Jesus. Though Mark says that Jesus had four brothers and several sisters, Jesus’ family plays a remarkably negligible role in his story. Jesus’ strange paternity made his birth an embarrassment for his would-be father, Joseph. Though Luke says that little Jesus “grew in wisdom and in years,” that does not seem to include the wisdom to cooperate with his parents. “You didn’t know that I would be about my Daddy’s business?” Jesus sassily asked Joseph and Mary when they reprimanded him for making them mad with worry by hanging out at the temple and arguing theology with the experts. Why, Jesus? Why focus on matters about which we couldn’t care less? And why assault those values—like home, parents, and family—that we consider so valuable? (WJ, 69)

On Jesus the Savior:
Just when I settle in and try to reduce Jesus’ love to me and my friends huddled in church, I hear him say to (us) the faithful, “The tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you!” (WJ, 82)

On Jesus the Sovereign:
God’s great rescue operation for a fallen world is Jesus Christ. The great end of that venture is the kingdom of God, that time and place when God, at last, gets what God wants. Many want a better world, a closer, more heightened sense of God’s nearness and God’s rule, but it is one thing to anticipate such a time and place; it is quite another actually to look at this lowly Jew from Nazareth, the Servant, and believe that, in him, the kingdom has come here, now. (WJ, 89)

Transfiguration, Buoninsegna

Internet Monk’s founder, Michael Spencer, urged all of us to pursue a “Jesus-shaped spirituality.” What did he mean by that? Here is a key characteristic, according to Michael:

It is a spirituality that is consciously, exclusively and intentionally Jesus-centered. The center and the boundaries of Jesus shaped spirituality are Jesus himself, as revealed in scripture, especially in the Gospels.

In these days following Epiphany, I encourage us all to contemplate Jesus, not only the most fascinating man who ever lived, but God in the flesh, our Savior and Lord, the beginning and the end. Willimon’s book can be of great help, but the best window of all through which to look at Jesus is the Biblical Gospel as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me!” (John 5:39-40, The Message)

May Jesus Christ be praised.


  1. CM,
    This past year I have really struggled with understanding the resurrection. I was falling into despair because I was fearing that I was slipping away from belief. However, something began to change and Willimon discussing how Jesus might not of turned the world upside but right side up coincides with what I began to realize.
    When I realized that the spiritual and the physical were not divorced and that Jesus by rising made it so once more that life be given and death defeated spiritual and eventually physical as well it all just began to slowly mesh. I am not totally there yet but, also Willimon seems to be saying Jesus is so complex you will spend your whole life feeling you aren’t quite there and that is where you are to be “not quite being there” but, constantly seeking to know this God/man until finally you are called to be with him and know him wholly. Maybe I am wrong but, do you think that sometimes the church talks about the spirit so much they forget the physical and almost dismiss it? I mean Jesus is the God/man both Spiritual and other world and at the same time a physical being like me. This is what drives me to Christianity; it is the only one that doesn’t try to escape the physical suffering. It embraces it. Thanks for these great posts.

  2. On Jesus the home wrecker.

    The Gospel of Mark has a negative slant of Jesus’ family. No geneology, no nativity stories, and verses like Mark 3:20-21. 20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

    Pure conjecture here, but could Luke and possibly Matthew have been written to provide a fuller perspective on Jesus’ family?

    If so, what about those verses in Luke and Matthew that talk about hating your father and mother?

    • For those who want to read it, I am referring to Matthew 10.

    • When I think about the contrast between being a follower of Jesus and “family values” I remember myself in my youth – full of love and sincerity hopelessly liberal and following Jesus without much concern for other matters. I think God still wants us to be dreamers and youthful idealists.

  3. Tim Becker says

    This comment refers more to an earlier posting, but if most of Christianity is correct, in that one’s eternal destiny, heaven or hell, depends on what he believes about Jesus, then why did Jesus “beat around the bush” so much by teaching in parables and answering questions with questions? I know sometimes he was just trying to frustrate those who were out to get him, but at other times he was speaking to those genuinely seeking. Reading he gospels can be frustrating because Jesus so often seems to speak so cryptically.

    • Tim, our eternal destiny does not rest on what we believe. It rests entirely in what Jesus has done. He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” He has done it all. When he said, “It is finished,” he meant it.

      Now, we can choose to find our identity in his death and resurrection, or we can continue to try to impress God with our good acts. But what we believe does not set our eternal destiny.

      How we see Jesus–now, that will change our lives now and forever. What Willimon is trying to do is get us to see Jesus as he truly is, not as we have tried to fashion him all of our lives.

      • John 8:24 – “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

        I guess I am more Aminian than Lutheran!

    • Yes, Tim, the Gospels are like every other part of the Bible–incredibly complex and worthy of a lifetime (or an eternity!) of study, yet with persuasive clarity about the main message. “Jesus died for our sins according the Scriptures, was buried, and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures” remains the heart and core of the story and by this we are saved.

  4. Joe Rutherford says

    It is important to understand the great benefits of forsaking all to follow Jesus. When we do so, God makes us born again and fills us with His Spirit. Then we can see how to rightly love our family and all other persons. Then we can be proper servants. Jesus did not come to increase the divorce rate and split families up and increase juvenile deliquency. He came to give us life and life more abundantly. Yes He foretold that families would be divided because of Him. But the will of God is for the saints to be faithful and perhaps others in the home and in the world will believe in Christ.

  5. I just heard a speaker quote Will Willimon before a large, very conservative audience. I never heard of him before reading this series.

  6. The John 5:39-40 “translation” as found in The Message: Wow! I know several people who attend multiple Bible studies every week. Apparently they are slow learners! In actuality, I know that they do it mostly to be around people.

    We will never figure out all the Bible has to teach. On the other hand, some familiarity is good, so we will know if what we’re hearing from the pulpit, the podcast, or the Ramsey seminar (from Jeff’s rant) lines up with Scripture.

    I need Jesus, and I need other believers. However – and I know this statement is very radical for lots of people – I never really found Jesus in or through the church. I heard about Jesus, but it was a different Jesus than the one I have discovered in the Gospel and among the hurting, needy and lonely. The Jesus I found in church was sort of a “shadow” of Jesus. Church seemed to be mostly about other things. Preserving the institution seemed to be at the top of the list, which always included making sure the building and property were being maintained and paid for and that the salaries were always paid.

    Whatever happened to Jesus? I know that various people find Him in all sorts of places, including churches. Strangely, and for me amazingly, my following Him is taking me to other places. I can only conclude if Jesus and I, and sometimes other Jesus followers are there, even if it is at a party of mostly sinners, in the home of a dying person or in the street talking to a gang member that this is the church, the church without walls, but the church nevertheless. The Kingdom is here, now, but sometimes difficult to see. I think of it like one of those pictures that look like a jumble of wiggly lines. You kind of have to stand back and just let the pic “pop”. Suddenly you see it. But some people can not. So they have to stick with what they can see.

    “May Jesus Christ be praised.”

  7. I’m late to comment (in the same way I was always just late enough for the Senior Associate Pastor to see me walking in.) Thank you for the post. These help me along on my journey to know Jesus better.

    Tim – I find Kenneth Bailey’s books on Jesus and the proverbs very helpful. I’ve had many “wow” moments with them.

  8. “We know all about the prophet Mohammed’s kin; we know next to nothing about the family of Jesus. ”

    What about James (Jacob) the Righteous?

    • Joe Rutherford says

      I know nothing about false prophet mohamies kin. “If the blind lead the blind they will both fall into the ditch.”

      But there is a lot to learn about the human family of Jesus in the scriptures. If it were all well studied and understood, it would be a lot of valuable revelation for our learning. In fact, the reality that He had brothers and sisters, a mother, and a human head of household type dad figure (Joseph); provided a perfect background for Him to teach and illustrate that His brothers and sisters and mothers are those who do the will of God. He also proclaimed that the only one with greater authority than Himself is God the Father, with Whom He is equally God and in complete unity with. Thus not mom or Joseph, or Ceaser, or the Sanhedrin, or sin , or hell, or high water, had any authority whatsoever over Him in the tiniest least. However, before our Lord became an adult according to the law, He submitted Himself to the authority of His human parents as the law requires. That was the will of the Father. Jesus always obeyed the Father in all things.

  9. > They were all filled with wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things. They rose up, threw him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill that their city was built on, that they might throw him off the cliff. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way. <

    I've always wondered what that scene from Luke 4 looked like. The mob was resolved to kill Jesus. But when they got up close to him . . . He simply passed "through the midst of them." His physical presence must have been magnificent!

    • I realize that my reason for the preceding post may not be clear. I was thinking it may be an example of Jesus the Magician.