I was recently reading some ancient literature about Jesus of Nazareth, and to be perfectly honest there were some things that made me uncomfortable.

For instance, Jesus of Nazareth was from NAZARETH! That place was seedy! It’s hard to imagine anything good ever emerging from Nazareth! And it seems like anyone from Nazareth should probably NOT retain the name of that town as an everlasting suffix! (see Acts 22:8).

Moreover, I read that Jesus of Nazareth recruited a leadership team comprised of uneducated blue collar workers, former terrorists, and toadies of tyrants. This is highly unorthodox and ill-advised! Yet, Jesus of Nazareth made this decision as if it was as natural and sensible as a 62 year old white man wearing New Balance sneakers.

Furthermore, Jesus of Nazareth deployed His team to permeate the world with a surreal message of an invisible Kingdom! And Jesus of Nazareth spoke as if demons were as common and intrusive as viral infections in wintertime; and He waged war against dark spiritual forces the way people deal with fruit flies (i.e. with unapologetic hatred and matter-of-fact lethal force). And when Jesus of Nazareth dispatched His team into the world, He told them, “Take nothing for your journey, no bag, no bread, no money; simply RELY on people’s charity and hospitality! (i.e. feel vulnerable, needy, and dependent on others!).”

Jesus of Nazareth was always saying uncomfortable stuff! Like, “I must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed; and after 3 days I’ll come back from the dead!” And, “If anyone really wants to follow Me (not just SAY it, but actually DO IT), then let him deny himself and die to himself daily! Only when you die to yourself and deny yourself are you actually FREE to follow Me! If you’re always on your phone, you can’t follow Me, because you’re too preoccupied and distracted with purchasing more stuff on Amazon, or doomscrolling, or instafondling, or discontenting yourself with comparisonizing! If you’re always feeling anxious and worried about what other people think of you then you can’t follow Me, because you’re too preoccupied with flimsy false identity facades rather than anchoring your confidence in the only firm foundation – which is My scandalous and unmerited treasuring of you!”

Get this, one of the things I read about Jesus of Nazareth was that He went up on a mountain (which is super uncomfortable! …hiking a mountain requires getting off the couch, and out of the house, and away from internet connections; and it’s strenuous, and it’s hard to breath at higher altitudes, and there’s risk of injury …it’s UNCOMFORTABLE in all kinds of ways!). And once Jesus of Nazareth got to the top of the mountain HE PRAYED! Can you imagine!? Let’s say you and I go hiking, and we get to the summit, and I pull out my granola bar and apple for snack time, and you say, “Hey Tyler, let’s pray!” O man, that’s gonna be awkward! Praying is like talking to an extremely magisterial person (like calling a Senator) …it’s not exactly easy to be casual and comfortable when communicating with such people. Moreover, when you’re praying, you’re talking to someone you cannot see! People will think you’re crazy! Like you have an imaginary friend! …So anyways, Jesus prays, and THEN Moses and Elijah show up and start chatting with Him! These guys have been DEAD for thousands and hundreds of years! Are they ghosts? I don’t know! If they are ghosts, then I’m uncomfortable. And – at a minimum – because I don’t know how to categorize this, I’m uncomfortable! I’m uncomfortable with things that confound me.

So Jesus of Nazareth eventually comes down from the mountain, and there’s this kid with a tormenting spirit living inside him, and the spirit seizes him, and he starts shouting and convulsing and foaming at the mouth! And this kid’s dad says, “I asked some of your followers to heal my son while You were up on the mountain, but they couldn’t.” And – get this – Jesus replies by saying, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you?” What kind of a response is that!? This kid is dealing with something extremely traumatic, and Jesus offers THIS as His initial reply to the father’s request for help!? Then Jesus of Nazareth simply rebuked the evil spirit and all was well. It’s like the emphasis is being placed on the fact that we are faithless and twisted, rather than the fact that Jesus healed this kid from a chronic demon problem.

So what are we gonna talk about later that night? Are we gonna chat about how Jesus healed this kid!? Nope. Jesus of Nazareth chooses to emphasize something else. While we are all marveling at the unparalleled healing power of Jesus, He interrupts our awe of His prodigious power to cure people of diseases and demons and instead He FORCES US TO FOCUS ON the fact that He’s going to be crucified! He says, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.” But we don’t understand this saying, and we honestly don’t want to understand. And we are afraid to ask Jesus for clarification, because we know it will be uncomfortable.

So instead of embracing the inescapable discomfort Jesus of Nazareth is offering, we choose to argue amongst ourselves about which one of us is the greatest. But Jesus intrudes on our debate, and insists that we look a some little kid He’s found walking around. And Jesus of Nazareth assertively says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven!” Yikes! Can you imagine if we actually adopted THIS as our paradigm of greatness! Our idea of greatness is all about outgrowing childlikeness (i.e. achieving “expert status” “PhD credentials” “SEC standing” “have it all fig’d out and under ctrl” and “on demand convenience”)! We don’t want to be needy, dependent, curious or vulnerable like children. Does Jesus really expect us to take Him seriously on this? I think I speak for all of us when I say, “We ain’t interested in forsaking our cherished strategies for feeling great! We are comfortable with our paradigms of greatness, and it’s very uncomfortable to even consider (let alone actually choose) changing our policies, procedures, and practices for pursuing greatness.” So we don’t.

Immediately following Jesus’ command to become like children we say, “Master, we saw some people doing ministry in Your name, and we tried to stop them, because they don’t follow with us.” We ARE COMFORTABLE with our way of doing things, and we aren’t so comfortable with the way other people do things. We can’t explicitly push back on the stuff Jesus is emphasizing (because, well, He’s God! …and it makes us feel like we’re being irreverent to come right out and oppose God to His face!), so we aim our scrutiny and punishing penalties at the people around us. We are VERY comfortable with judging others!

But then Jesus of Nazareth hits us with more uncomfortableness! He says, “Do not stop that person who does it different than you (i.e. that person who doesn’t subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith; that person who doesn’t align with your political “principles”; etc.), for the one who is not against you is for you.” Holy smokes! Really? That’s it!?!? It seems like Jesus of Nazareth should offer a lot more nuance in a situation like this! But – uncomfortably – He doesn’t.

Then, Jesus attempts to schedule THE LAST SUPPER in SAMARIA of all places! What!? That can’t be right. No self-respecting person from our community would even consider visiting Samaria, and we for dang sure ain’t gonna try and have something as momentous as THE LAST SUPPER in such a place! And as if to prove our point, the Samaritans refuse to let Jesus celebrate the Passover feast in their territory! So we offer to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans! But Jesus rebuked us for being so vindictive.

So now we’re all feeling awkward, and things are just downright uncomfortable. And we’re walking along in silence and someone comes up to Jesus and says, “I will follow You wherever you go.” And Jesus says to the guy, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Not a very accommodating or sensitive way to reply to someone showing interest. To another guy Jesus said, “Follow me.” But the guy said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another person said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” But Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”