Offense

Modern theology is filled with former hippies. It has to be. Otherwise I wouldn’t be inundated with people obsessed with Jesus’ radical nature. Maybe not former hippies. Maybe former OP wearing surfer wannabes of the 1980s. Not sure. But people love to call Jesus “radical.”

And they aren’t all together wrong in that, just maybe guilty of overuse. In our Gospel lesson for Sunday, Jesus ends his answer to John’s disciples in a rather cryptic way, “Blessed is anyone who takes no offense to me.”

Why would he say this? Why would people take offense at him?

The NIV translates it, “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

Still, an odd thing to say to the disciples of his cousin, the guy who baptized him just a year or so ago, John the Baptist. Who is falling away?

What causes Jesus to get caught up in his offensive nature? Looking over the list of accomplishments, there isn’t much to get all hot and bothered about: “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

While the scholars I mention above would like to associate Jesus’ radical offense with the last item listed, my colleague Michael noted in Lectionary study yesterday that perhaps the offense is elsewhere. He recalled, quite remarkable, two verses from 2 Samuel 5. As David and his men march into Jerusalem the Jebusites mocked David saying, “You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back.” Once David has taken Zion he said, “Whoever would strike down the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates.”

Apparently this led to a well known saying among the decedents of David, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”

Michael wondered if maybe the offense Jesus is speaking of comes by his inclusion of (even primacy of as they occur first on the list) the blind seeing and the lame walking in his listing off his Messiah-esqe deeds. Those whom David hates are made first in the Kingdom of Heaven. That sounds pretty offensive to me. Radical even.

Jesus turned the whole upside-down world right-side up. He even restored those who had been outcast since David took the city of Jerusalem. Who does Jesus restore that we find offensive? Is my redemption offensive to someone else? Thanks be to God that his arms of grace are stretched wide.

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