May’s blog post comes to us from NazTooer Paige Tilden. Paige is an Intersex mother of two and lives in San Diego with her family. When not taking care of the kids at home, she also volunteers at the local LGBT center as an advocate for Intersex people by going out and educating others in school settings and other public presentations.
One of the most in-depth conflicts that we see from Scripture is that of Jesus and the Pharisees. It’s perfectly understandable given that Jesus came to throw a wrench in the entire system as the harbinger of the second Adam. Through the many interactions they had in public, Jesus always made the opposition look foolish and narcissistic, not because his goal was to hurt them, but to teach them God’s way to love. To change their mindset, it required a full and complete renewal of their religion, which they did not want to change or otherwise surrender any piece of. But what was the reason for their refusal?
The first thought is that they had generations of tradition of the Abraham- and Moses-led faith. Human nature is to avoid change because we like comfortable and knowing where we are. Why would they question what their great-great-grandparents were taught? For every time they were conquered and exiled, it was when they returned to YHWH that they were able to return to the lands promised to them, often with the next generation. Given that it happened time and time again, we can tell that there was a clear failure to learn from past mistakes of previous generations, but that they did know who to return to when they had gone astray. But if this was the primary or only reason for the conflict with Christ, why would the general masses go out to hear His teaching? Why was He hailed like a king when He entered Jerusalem on a donkey? Alone, we cannot presume it was just a subversion of traditions that the Jewish people and faith had.
Another could be the fact that the Pharisees saw the immense knowledge that Christ had and were jealous that they would never be able to accomplish the same feats. Every time they went to question Him on any topic, especially on things like the law, Christ had the exact answer necessary to shut them down. People swarmed around Christ to be healed, just from the hem of His cloak. His miracles were known throughout the land. While clearly both Pharisees and teachers of the law were among the intellectual elite in their society, they had to realize they were outclassed. Surely they knew the stories of the young Jesus who was teaching in the temple but was only barely considered a man. And while we know they were looking for the Messiah to come forth and save them, Christ certainly did not fit the mold they wanted for their salvation.
But that is not the one that is clearly the primary reason. Power. They were the ruling class of the Jewish people. Who enforced the laws of their religion? Who could add or remove laws? Even though we know Pilate was above them, as they were subjects of the Roman Empire, they were the religious authority. We know that Christ called them out for their elaborate prayers in public, stating those that did had already received their reward from the eyes of men instead of God. They also were in a constant plot to find a way to dismiss Him, as they tried to do intellectually as well, but that clearly continued to fail. Likely, they had already felt the lack of power from having to bend the knee to the Romans, and did not want someone else to come in and knock them down a peg again. Change is hard, but knowingly losing power and privilege that you had is harder.
What we know more than anything about why Christ came, it was not to seek power. At least, not earthly power. We know that He would be tempted not only to be given all of said earthly power, but also to test the godly powers that He had been given to throw Himself off the temple. He knew what He was capable of, and even moreso what God was capable of. A sign of the desire to continue living as a humble man instead of embracing the reality that He was also fully God. As we work our hardest to emulate Christ and all the teachings He gave us, we have to look at what the end goal was of His life. He gave up all of His power to be our sacrifice.
When we say we want to be like Christ, we have to remember the examples we’re given: the selfless acts, the intentional community, being light to the world. These are what we need to be concerned about as Christians. Too many times, especially with the chaotic state that the world is persisting through today, we are far more likely to follow the Pharisees. Searching to maintain our own power and comforts. Control becomes the focus, as we can make everyone like Christ if we can enforce it, right? But this was not the example that was presented to us. Not by Christ, nor the apostles. If we are to continue to be an example for the world of God’s love, it cannot be forced upon them by any means necessary.Jesus said: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”. In doing so, He summarized the entirety of the law and prophets. Using control as a means to be like Christ is a direct contradiction to what Christ taught with those two lines. We need to focus on being an example of love to those we interact with. In making that love known to those around us, we will be the influence and light in the world that we want to see, and not become an earthly power that rules over others to dictate who is and is not worthy of God’s love.