What would Jesus do?

File:Hobos.jpgA tramp and his gang wander the lanes, sometimes sleeping in barns, sometimes in fields. When decent townsfolk tell them to clear off, the leader goes into megalomaniac rants: Woe to you, Chorazin… I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven. What would Jesus do? Drive a herd of pigs into the water so they all drowned, or make a whip of cords and drive ordinary decent people out of the temple; or curse a fig tree when it does not produce fruit at a time of year when no fig tree would- curse it so it withers overnight.

I know who the hero of the story is. It is Jesus, who is the Son of God and who redeems the World, after spending two or three years healing and teaching it. The teachings are absolutely Good, even if we can conveniently forget some which are difficult to explain. The New Testament authors all agree on who the hero is, but some of the evidence they gather is disturbing.

The members of the early Christian community gave all their property to be held in common. Ananias and Sapphira brought theirs too, but concealed the fact that they kept some back. When the Apostles by inspiration discovered their lies, and confronted them, God struck them down dead. It is all very well thinking Yahweh had grown out of his habit of, say, File:Ned "The Shiner" Slattery and his dog - edit.jpgcommanding the Israelites to slaughter all the Canaanites, but here he is in one of his Old Testament  moods.

Possibly the Gospel writers did not fully understand Jesus, and possibly they projected their own views onto him. Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar say which lines attributed to Jesus they believe he actually said. The problem with this is that it might just cut out the bits we don’t like, or tidy Jesus up, ignoring the difficult to explain bits. Garry Wills, in What Jesus Said, claims to accept the Gospel accounts, but in fact picks and chooses which parts of the Gospels to quote.

A blogger who does not publish my comments feared that school chaplains would be unable to tell children that homosexual sex is sinful, under modern Equalities legislation in Britain. Even the least churchy child is aware of Christian condemnation of queers. Is that really the first message you want a child with no understanding whatsoever of Christianity to hear about it? I don’t think Paul’s passages about the Sins of the people outside the Church are useful either- take note, Jehovah’s Witnesses- as most people are fairly decent, and see themselves as such. The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are good choices. The disciples were pulling grains of wheat, passers-by told them to stop, Jesus said “I do what I like, mate”. There’s a good one for dissing authority. Meanwhile there are these difficult to explain passages that Atheists can have great fun with, Christian-bating.


6 thoughts on “What would Jesus do?

  1. I thought Jess and the Temple incident was exactly that they weren’t decent people? It harms back to Isaiah, which I think was quoted from, which also says that the sacrifices were detestable because thy did not fight for social justice or what was right, yet prayed to God who required them to be worried about the homeless and persecuted.

    The Fig Tree is surely a allegory of Ninevah that failed to listen to Jonah’s warning?

    We have to remember that the Jewish oral history tradition is deep rooted in parables and allegory to make sense of the Gospels, we are reading with western eyes.

    Jesus did not mean literally you could be bitten by poisonous snakes and survive, the point was that whilst on ‘Gods business’ you be watched over and protected


    • I went back to the story, in Mk 11:15-17, Lk 19:45-46, Mt 21:12-13, and Jn 2:13-16. We know that the sellers were selling animals for sacrifice at a large mark-up, because the Law was that they should be “without blemish”, and the priests could find blemishes on any animal bought outside. But that is not obvious from the Gospel passages themselves. This is the point, that you need that critical apparatus, a gospel reading then a sermon preached on it.

      And- we know, having had it explained, that the sellers were exploiters, but would the local people have seen it then?


      • I think Christ’s words were ‘this is a house of prayer and you have made it a den of thieves’

        We can’t deconstruct the narrative too much because most of our deliberations would be supposition, the point we do get it is that religion is not about commercial gain or exploitation.

        The Bible says, I believe, he drove the sellers out of the Temple and not the people.

        I think we are in danger of losing the meaning in search of the absolute details on the event(s).


  2. I’ve had a discussion with a Christian about the temple incident before, with reference to people not being ‘perfect’. I think of leaders I truly admire, like Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi or Mandela – the obstacles they faced (and still face) and how they dealt with much more painfully atrocious behaviour in a consistently peaceful and non-confrontational manner. The son of a god, who is that god himself, would have much more convincing tools at his disposal than fashioning a whip and violently overturning tables (I don’t think this can be done gently), when he saw something that didn’t even hurt anyone, but just offended his sense of ‘right’. Many people earn a living in a way I disagree with, I tend to think that discussing it with them is the best option.

    I didn’t know about Ananias and Sapphira. I don’t think striking people dead is nice either. 🙂

    (Great post!)


    • As for the convincing tools at his disposal, consider the Temptations in the wilderness. Using a miracle would get in the way.

      Mmm. There was the “Quit India” campaign where an Indian on meeting a white person would say “Quit India”- easy phrase to learn, cumulatively not good for white morale. And- we have the example of Jesus’ passive resistance. He did not run away, though he could have. He did not fight, but told his followers to put the sword down. And, as Andy says, the traders and priests were thieves, charging too much for sacrificial animals.

      There are answers to all these things- and, I thought you would like this post.


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