There is not much about being a Christian that is particularly groundbreaking: focus on Jesus-crucified for us sinners. Enjoy the benefits of his forgiveness, life, and salvation in words, water, bread, and wine. Love others by serving them in our baptismal vocations.
A lot of Jesus’ most famous quotes are pretty basic too:
- “...the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28).
- “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
- “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
- “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. “(John 3:16-17)
The elementary school-level simplicity of Jesus’ word is not an aberration. They are the central feature of his teaching, and as a consequence, the central feature of the Christian faith.
In fact, any Christian who can’t declare the gospel to an eight-year-old in all its school-level simplicity is unnecessarily complicating things. There’s nothing complicated about Jesus-crucified for us sinners, his gifts, or our baptismal vocations.
In Jesus’ day, the merchants in the temple, religious leaders, and anyone who could profit from peoples’ piety and superstitions liked to complicate things. But, a lot of complicated stuff isn’t actually complicated. It’s made to seem that way, so no one will notice that it’s actually a scam.
The merchants in the temple, religious leaders, and others who profited from peoples’ piety and superstitions had to complicate things. They had to explain, in a complicated way, why people needed to buy so much religious stuff, follow so many religious rules, and do so many religious works to get right with God. If they didn’t complicate things, people would understand they were being sold a bunch of sugar-coated lies and laugh those religious scam artists out of a job.
We don’t need to make forgiveness, life, and salvation a hard sell.
But Jesus doesn’t complicate things. He doesn’t try to take advantage of people’s piety. He doesn’t feed into their superstitions. He isn’t trying to impress anyone with a religious dog and pony show. He’s not trying to make his followers feel like geniuses for understanding him. No, his teachings are designed to be short and to the point. No talking around the subject. No long-winded explanations. Jesus uses the absolute minimum number of words to make the most straightforward point: “I have come to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
Likewise, today, when someone’s “got the goods,” so to speak, there’s no need to dress up Jesus’ death and resurrection. We don’t need to make forgiveness, life, and salvation a hard sell. That’s why Jesus lays it out and lets people take it or leave it.
That’s how it goes for his church and in every aspect of our baptized life. No sugar-coated lies. No dog and pony show. No hard sell. Just Jesus-crucified for us sinners. Just the benefits of his forgiveness, life, and salvation in words, water, bread, and wine. Just the work he’s given each of us to do, to love others in our baptismal vocations.
It’s not groundbreaking or complicated. Jesus for sinners. His gifts, given to us. Free in our baptismal vocations to love each other. Nothing complicated. No long-winded explanations. No hard sell. Just the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His body, given into death for our sin. His blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sin.