…. and, speaking of words …. and the textualization thereof … one of the thoughts which has intrigued me much is the way that Jesus himself lived in relationship with the culture, theology and religious order of the day. Then as now, his life and teaching were filled with controversy. Jesus made some extremely bold claims and possibly at the top of this pile is the claim he made to be the awaited Messiah. If one believes these claims to be true it could possibly be argued that if anyone had the ‘right’ to get dictatorial, even anal about ‘truth’ and anything pertaining to ‘absolutes’ it was Jesus. If anyone had the right to publish his teachings and doctrines and set them down in measureable form it was Jesus. But in these days there are books, blogs and papers on every conceivable issue. Men and women write their opinions down feverishly. Indeed, it is not difficult to begin to think that perhaps there is not a single thing that has evaded the scrutiny of the human eye. And there seems to be as many opinions published as there are people who publish their opinions. We seem to love to be ‘right’, and for the average fundamentalist this means a strict and unyielding adherence to the ‘letter of the law’ as contained in the scriptures (and I include the so-called New Testament scriptures in this). Yet to my mind the life and teachings of Christ is in stark contrast to all of this. We tend to publish books by the millions. Jesus, never penned a single word. Now clearly I am not Jesus, but if I were to take a little liberty here and, in keeping with my fundamentalist grounding, and using the theology and methodology of our ever so enlightened times, reflect on what I as a healthy little modern day Pharisee and religious leader might have done if I had been Jesus, I would surely have recruited a vast troupe of scribes (elders and deacons, if you will). I would most probably have lined them all up with parchment ready and quill and ink pot charged. I think then that I would very possibly have sternly instructed them to be clear and concise, obedient, articulate and accurate in every detail. My next step would have been to dictate the specifics of what was needed in terms of everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I would have got them to record for all time all the words of life and truth. I would have explained in great detail the reason for my being there, the significance of my actions, the times and seasons set by the will of God over all eternity. I would have dictated a detailed narrative of the history of man and God – the why’s, the when’s, the where’s, the how’s …. I also would have focused on the future in great detail, especially in the light of my immanent departure. I would, like any good religious leader and strategic planner have given them a 1-year, 5-year, 10-year, even a few 1000-year plans to make sure that all were clearly informed and in line with the overall strategy of Heaven. My intent in this would have been to leave something for those who would follow that would be clear, incorruptible and more than adequate for clarity and undisputed interpretation and process ….. But clearly, I am not he as Jesus did nothing of the sort ….. and in the light of this disturbing revelation it strikes me that other than what was apparently written in the sand when a woman, allegedly caught alone in the very act of adultery, was thrown down at his feet to test him and his theology, … there is nothing Jesus wrote at all. … and even that which he had written in this instance was etched with his own hand in dry soil, in mere particles of sand which was totally at the mercy of the wind and other natural elements as well as exposed to the mercilessness and insensitivity of the trampling of mens feet. Jesus spoke to his closest disciples in veiled terms and withheld much from them (mainly because they were unable to bear it). He left them mostly clueless as to the present time they were in as well as the times that were to come. He also tended to confuse them with his special and mostly unusual interpretation and application of the scriptures they all knew so well. Most of the time he taught in metaphors and in them used common content and everyday situations rather than the direct scriptural texts the religious rulers of the time used. In fact, right up to the time he disappeared from their collective view for the last time they were still virtually totally in the dark as to the social, political and chronological realities of the time they were in let alone the future. Compared to the standards and systematic ways of church leaders of today Jesus was a pretty bad leader. Even the team he picked would never have been chosen by any self-respecting church leader today. He picked a real pack of inflammatory, divided ruffians who constantly quarrelled amongst each other over the most fleshly of issues and it’s possible that if many years later Paul of Tarsus had not come along they would really have been deep in the proverbial doo-doo. And by their own confession, even Paul’s teachings were very confusing and difficult for them to understand. This is why I suggested the method of recruiting a set of scribes earlier. It was clearly really very necessary. Yet Jesus was not at all bothered too much about this. He spoke on about another strange ‘comforter’ who would come along and be a guide and a companion to them after he had gone. He told them that the Father would send what he called the “Spirit of Truth” and that this individual would not only remind them of the things he had said, but also take them further into more of an understanding of things that were clearly way over their heads at the time. Even this was completely confusing to them and near the end they seemed to all but give up and possibly they just nodded energetically when he spoke on and tried to look as intelligent as possible. Surely a written codex was urgently needed under these circumstances? Surely a tight structure with clear lines of authority and a streamed-lined business strategy was what was needed? Organograms, lines of accountability, shepherding areas, overseeing leaders and area pastors, worship team leaders, worship musicians, psalmists, intercessory teams, prayer schedules, cell-group structures, office badges, official ministry allocations, Christian merchandise salespeople, ushers, stewards, velvet lined offering trays, and the like. Surely Jesus urgently needed to take them all through a rigorous training schedule, perhaps a retreat somewhere in the mountains, a Leadership Training School perhaps where all the points of Kingdom leadership and theology, missiology, methodology, outreach strategies, feeding schemes, banking procedures (we can’t forget that most important of all worship tools), prophetic workshops, etc. etc. etc. be alpha-numerically delineated, indexed and implemented according to target timelines and accountability schedules? Strangely, Jesus did none of these. He just walked with them for a few years and left them in the hands of a mystery friend whom no-one could even see. And the most amazing thing of all is that they did pretty well under his shoddy leadership and lack of ministerial definition. As I have said before, this is indeed in stark contrast to the religious leaders and intelligentsia of his day and ours.
Why, I ask, would he conduct himself in the way he did?
And why, I ask, do we continue to conduct ourselves in the way we do?