Jesus is always many things: always truthful, always faithful, always divine.
But he is not always nice.
He wasn’t nice to the religious goody two shoes when he nicknamed them white-washed tombs. When he told Peter that his speech reeked with the halitosis of hell. And remember that time he compared a distraught mom to a dog begging for table scraps?
The worst thing that could happen to us is always getting the Jesus we want.
No, Jesus is always many things, but he is not always sugary sweet. Not always flashing a winning smile as he bear hugs us and says, “Now, now, everything's going to be okay.”
Sometimes Jesus is mean. And brutal and cold and downright harsh.
Some encounters with him leave us singing, “What a Foe We Have in Jesus.”
And this is good. The worst thing that could happen to us is always getting the Jesus we want. That Jesus gives a thumbs-ups to our every decision. Affirms us no matter how stupid we become. A kind of weak-spined, boot-licking savior whose sole objective is to cheer us on as we sprint like Usain Bolt down the track to hell.
If you find your Jesus agreeing with every decision you make, let him be damned. Because hades is his home. An always nice, always agreeable and affirmative Jesus is nothing but the devil in a savior suit.
What makes this so hard for us to accept? We think one-dimensionally. We suppose that if Jesus is our friend, he can’t be our enemy. If he is loving, he can’t be harsh.
But God’s Son is infinitely more than our fragile egos have flattened him out to be.
An always nice, always agreeable and affirmative Jesus is nothing but the devil in a savior suit.
As no true friend would stand idly by while we guzzled poison, but would slap the cup out of our hand, so Jesus has been known to strike out. To shake us up. To get in our face. Indeed, to drag us kicking and screaming away from spiritual suicide so he can talk life into us once again.
Jesus loved the Pharisees so much he called them out, he named them what they were, so that they might stop building their prideful stairways to heaven and live in the humble house of his cross.
He loves us so much that he shakes up our lives, straps crosses to our backs. Sometimes he even lets us faceplant in the muck of immorality so that we might taste and see how grotesque a life of rebellion is.
At those times Jesus seems to be our enemy. A God against us.
Of course he does. That’s the sinner inside us jacking his jaw. And that sinner is so drunk with lies he wouldn’t recognize the truth if you stapled it to his forehead.
Jesus is the friend of sinners and the foe of sinners. His friendship necessitates his enemyship. He is a God who kills to make alive, wounds to heal, so of course he’s got to wound and kill us before we vacate the tomb.
Christ’s greatest work among us will always be splashed with the blood of the cross.
The road to Easter never bypasses Golgotha.
But here’s the thing: to know God—I mean, to really and truly know him—is to recognize him in suffering and the cross. To feel like Jesus is your foe but to believe, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, that he is your friend, your very life.
Christ’s greatest work among us will always be splashed with the blood of the cross. Messy and dirty and confusing. But it must be this way. The labor of love which God performs in us often hurts like hell. In fact, he often executes our dreams and hopes that we might die and rise to God’s dreams and hopes for us.
Jesus isn’t always nice. But he is always truthful and faithful, which is far better.
What’s more, he’s walked our path, however dark and dismal. A Savior that cried out that his Father had forsaken him on the cross is a Savior worth believing in.
Compassion and sympathy are as deep as the marrow in his bones.
So when you cry out that he’s forsaken you, he nods and says, “Yes, so it feels. But I haven’t. I’m on the cross with you. Dying with you so I might carry you out of the tomb on Easter morning.”
What a strange friend we have in Jesus. But he’s the best friend any of us can have. Because when our eternity is at stake, when life itself hangs in the balance, he’ll rush into the thick of the fight, with eyes blazing with the fires of a divine love for us that will never, ever go out.