I was chatting with some friends recently about Jesus Freaks. And of course you cannot discuss Jesus Freaks without talking about John the baptizer. John was obsessed with Jesus! Before John was even born, he was leaping with enthusiasm for Jesus in his mother’s womb! He was always saying stuff like, “Jesus infinitely outranks all of us! We’re not even worthy to touch Jesus’ sandals!” And he was always telling people, “Look at Jesus! Behold Him! Be in awe of Him! Join me in being besotted with Jesus! Jesus must increase, and we must decrease!”
Being infatuated with Jesus seems to have come very naturally to John. So it’s surprising to discover that John went through an intense season of doubt and confusion regarding his devotion to Jesus. Here’s what happened…
John had been rebuking a high-ranking political official for committing acts of sexual immorality, and as a result John was arrested. While John was in prison he started to wonder why Jesus hadn’t busted him out? In fact, Jesus hadn’t even come to visit John in jail! So John started to have doubts about Jesus. How could an all-powerful, good, and incarnate God NOT get John out of jail; or even simply swing by for a visit? John waited, and wondered, and wrestled with these questions; and eventually he decided to send some of his friends to ask Jesus directly, “Are you The One who is to come! Or shall we look for another?” Jesus replied by saying, “I’m an acquired taste, and you will have to wrestle through the reality that My ways are NOT your ways. It will most certainly be a challenge to forsake what you deem to be “wise,” “understanding,” and “sensible;” in favor of trusting Me with your whole heart, and adopting My extremely unorthodox style as your own.”
Let’s consider 3 areas of life where we are chiefly admonished to acquire a taste for The Unorthodox Way(s) of Jesus:
PLACES (Nazareth & Samaria)
Jesus was from Nazareth! Now you might say, “Well, Jesus had no say when it came to his hometown …that’s something He couldn’t help.” Insofar as Jesus was 100% human, I certainly agree; but let’s notice a couple of things: (1) In addition to being 100% human, Jesus is also 100% God – so He is actually sovereign over His hometown (both in terms of His decision to grow up there, and the reputation of the town itself!); (2) Just because humans cannot control where they’re raised, that doesn’t mean we don’t still hold it against them! So, all that said, it is fair to say that we have a problem with Jesus being from Nazareth! We hate Nazareth! We scorn Nazareth! We criticize, and complain against, Nazareth, adding our voices to the contemptuous chorus crying out, “Nothing good could ever come from Nazareth!”
And in case you weren’t yet convinced that Jesus elected to invest a significant amount of time in disreputable places, let’s consider the fact that He regularly hung-out in Samaria! If “nothing good could possibly come from Nazareth,” then “guaranteed evil was the result of visiting Samaria! (John 8:48).” But the inescapable fact is that Jesus deliberately decided to customarily be in these places; and here’s the deal… if you’re a follower of Jesus, then you will invariably be following Jesus into these despised places.
Think about WHERE you DON’T WANT TO GO, and consider how Jesus might very well be commanding you to go there! And most likely, Jesus isn’t simply telling you to visit once or twice, but He’s probably telling you to be a regular in that place! Now if you trust Jesus and obey His command to be in that place, here’s what’s gonna happen: you’re going to start loving the people of that place! You’re going to acquire a taste for the place, and you’re going to cease villainizing people and instead you’re going to start honoring them! Which leads us to the next area of life wherein Jesus is inviting us to acquire His tastes…
PEOPLE (Samaritans & Sicarii)
Jesus thoroughly dignified and honored the Samaritans. For instance, Jesus enjoyed talking with Samaritans, and deploying these disreputable people as His ambassadors (John 4:29); and He liked to make the despised Samaritans the heroes and exemplars of His stories (Luke 10:33-37).
But the people Jesus hung-out with the most were His twelve disciples. Jesus enrolled these guys into an intense, inescapable, multi-year, life together, experience! These 13 guys ate all their meals together, they traveled together, they worked together, they debated and discussed all kinds of things with one another; and throughout all of it, they maintained radically different perspectives and opinions! For example, one of the twelve was a former zealot. Prior to being recruited by Jesus, this guy (Simon) was a member of the Sicarii …a terrorist group who sought to destabilize the Roman government, and reclaim dominance for the nation of Israel. Simply having a former terrorist on the team seems suspect, but to further complicate matters Jesus also decided to recruit a former tax collector (i.e. a government employee!). So you can easily imagine the animosity and annoyance that this two guys felt toward each other! And yet, Jesus intentionally put these guys on the same team; and insisted that they experience daily life together.
Think about the people you avoid. Who annoys you? Who do you have principled disagreements with? Now consider, how might Jesus be commanding you to do daily life with these people you don’t find desirable? Now if you trust Jesus and obey His command to be with people you wouldn’t have chosen on your own, here’s what’s gonna happen: you’re going to acquire a taste for these people, and what historically annoyed you will become endearing to you (evidence for this phenomenon is everywhere: Jim and Dwight from The Office; Zak and Tyler from Peanut Butter Falcon; Apollo and Rocky from Rocky I-IV; Buzz and Woodyfrom Toy Story; Carl & Russell from the movie Up; etc.). Which leads to the final area of life wherein Jesus invites us to acquire His tastes…
PREFERENCES (Scripture & Service)
Obviously you have preferences. But the thing about your preferences is that they aren’t permanent. For instance, when you were twelve years old you thought drinking black coffee was crazy …but now you’re addicted to it! Jesus however, has permanent preferences; and He is committed to conforming your preferences to His. So, for example, when Jesus was twelve years old he loved going to church and imaginatively immersing Himself in the stories, prophecies, and poems of Scripture. In fact, He loved it so much that one time his family left church and traveled ½ way home before realizing that Jesus wasn’t with them – because (unbeknownst to His parents and siblings) He had hung back to indulge in more church/Bible study. And when His parents finally found Him, they scolded Him saying, “Why have you treated us so!?” To which Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for Me? Didn’t you know that I must be in My Father’s house?”
Now, you will no doubt be somewhat offended, or at least disturbed, by Jesus’ manner of relating to His parents. Which, coupled with Jesus’ manifest obsession with Scripture, forces us to recognize the final primary preference, and acquired taste, of Jesus: His wholesale dedication to doing His Father’s will …which, simply put, is TO SERVE SINNERS!
First of all, let’s notice the fact that when Jesus imaginatively inhabited Scripture, He experienced it as REAL FOOD! Jesus’ emphatic and principled conviction is that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God. And as Jesus digested Scripture, He was primarily compelled to act on it as His food. Kind of like how you partake of Instagram as your food/obsession, and then you act upon what you see in a compulsory manner (e.g. you feel an insatiable urge to purchase what you see advertised, or you strive to emulate the post of someone you envy); so Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”
Which begs the question, ‘What is the essential will and work of God The Father?’ Jesus’ answer to that question is, “The mission/main work of the Son of Man is not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Which begs the question, ‘Why would the Son of Man need to give His life as a ransom for people?’ And the answer is: because we’re evil. So, just to be clear – Jesus’ primary preference is to (a) not be served, but to serve (i.e. the opposite of what we naturally prefer); and (b) to serve sinners (i.e. certainly not the people we would choose to serve …perhaps for someone we perceive to be good, we might occasionally, or possibly, serve them; but for people we believe to be bad we don’t dare allow ourselves to be of service to them). And Jesus’ primary preference is to serve sinners to such an extent that He is committed to giving His life, and suffering God’s wrath, for them!
So, let’s say you want to participate in the long and arduous process of acquiring an irrevocable taste for the substance and style of Jesus, what should you do? Well, there’s a very simple paradigm for the process: you become what you behold (2 Corinthians 3:18). So if you want to acquire the taste for the substance (Matthew 26:26), and style (Matthew 20:26-28) of Jesus, then here’s what you must do: Fixate on Him, and embrace Him as the author and perfector of your addiction to Him; being incessantly mesmerized by the fact that Jesus endured the cross as the joy set before Him, scorning the shame, and after laying dead in the grave three days He rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and is presently still serving us from an enthroned position with all authority and power over heaven and earth!