A lot has changed in 2000 years. Man, a lot has changed in 2 years. Watch a movie that’s just a few years old. If it’s set in New York and you can still see the World Trade Center in the skyline or if one of the characters uses a flip phone, the movie may as well be in black and white.
A lot has changed. And fast.
During the month of April, I plan on preaching through specific events leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. Part of the trick for me is to not read the gospels, are any part of the Bible, through my white, American eyes. But I can’t help it. Something inside of me has to wonder what it would be like if Jesus was born 30 years ago in the United States and was now just a few weeks away from his crucifixion.
A lot has changed in 2000 years.
Or has it?
People would still be mad at Jesus.
Conservatives and libertarians would probably like him at first. But then we would take notice of some of the people who followed him and start to have our doubts. Prostitutes? Really? The deal closer for us would be the time when one of us walked into a restaurant and noticed Jesus sitting with a high ranking IRS official. That, coupled with his hesitancy to do anything to overthrow oppressive government officials, would be all we would need.
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 (ESV)
Those with more of a liberal slant would love Jesus’ work with the poor. His Sermon on the Mount would get tons of shares and likes on social media. Of course, the part where he talks about marriage and adultery would have to be overlooked. Who is he to keep people apart who really love each other? And what’s with his followers? Some of them carry swords! There are even rumors that Jesus told them to do such a thing. That seems more and more like the work of an extremist than a man who will bring about peace.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27 (ESV)
The health nuts would really have a fit. I mean, have you seen some of the things he eats? Isn’t he aware of the mercury in the fish or the gluten in the bread? To top it all off, his disciples don’t even wash their hands before they eat. Barbarians!
“There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Mark 7:15 (ESV)
The church folks wouldn’t like the way he stirs up controversy in houses of worship. Those were expensive tables he turned over. The anti-religion zealots would ridicule his frequent talk of God and the government would view him as a puppet to be used for their own wicked purposes only to be discarded when those purposes are met.
It’s been said that nothing brings unity like a common enemy. If Jesus was wrapping up his earthly ministry next month in the United States, he would be the common enemy. He would be the one person who got the libertarians, the liberals, the high-ranking government officials, the food Nazis, the church crowd and the skeptics to all sing the same song.
It’s been 2000 years since Jesus’ earthly ministry. The World Trade Centers have come and gone. Phones have gotten smarter.
But things haven’t really changed all that much.
The human heart still has a bent towards grace when it is the recipient but away from grace when it’s another heart doing the receiving.
Thankfully, God hasn’t changed either. 2000 years ago, Jesus didn’t come looking for people who would agree with him. He came looking for sinners. He found them. He confronted them. He forgave them. He loves them.
He found a tax-collecting traitor named Levi. He found an extremist named Simon who wanted to see that government overthrown. He forgave them both. He loved them. And he gave them both a spot around the same table. His table.
We all have our differences. And that’s good. But none of us have exclusive rights to Jesus. We all have our shortcomings. If the crucifixion took place a few Fridays from now, we would all find our own ways to drive nails, run away in terror, mock or yell, “Crucify.”
All of us.
But that doesn’t mean that we should abandon truth in some sort of near-sighted hope that doing so would lead to unity. It won’t. It never does.
Instead, we should cling to truth. The Truth.
It’s only then that we come to grips with just how dire our condition is.
But it’s also there where we see just how deep the Savior’s love is.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:34 (ESV)