Who is this Rebel Jesus?
John 14:6; Luke 9:23-24
Rev. Sandy Johnson
February 18, 2018
Rebel! When you hear the word, what comes to mind? Rebel without a cause? The Runnin’ Rebels? Rebel forces? Maybe Rebel Alliance from Star Wars? I have a friend in Oregon named Rebel Austin. The word rebel might stir up all kinds of memories. Have you ever put the word Rebel with the word Jesus? Does it sound strange to think of Jesus as a rebel? I guess that would depend on the definition of the word rebel, wouldn’t it? The Urban Dictionary says this about rebel:
“A rebel is a person who stands up for their own personal opinions despite what anyone else says. A true rebel stands up for what they believe is right, not against what’s right. It’s not about smoking crack, drinking till you’re rendered unconscious, or beating the crap out of anyone that crosses your path. It’s all about being an individual and refusing to follow a crowd that forces you to think the same way they do even if it means becoming an outcast to society. True rebels know who they are and do not compromise their individuality or personal opinion for anyone. They’re straightforward and honest and they will sure as h*ll tell it like it is.”
That sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it? Standing up for what he knew was right, going against society for what he knew to be the will of God. Too often we think of a squeaky clean, loving, kind Jesus without realizing how radical his teachings really were. We sometimes forget that what Jesus taught us was contrary to the law as taught by the Pharisees. Jesus was a sweet man, a good, moral teacher, who came to save us from a life of sin and we are to be thankful.
Unfortunately, I am afraid we have succumbed to society and “dumbed down what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Our churches consist of members who have little to do with following Jesus. We have turned church into a noun, (instead of a verb) a stationary building that we visit once a week, or once a month for some, instead of a living, functioning, working community of Jesus-following believers. The church has redefined faithfulness as simply showing up for worship, making a donation, and then going back home to our regular lives. Instead of being disciples who demonstrate an undiluted devotion to Jesus as Lord, we have domesticated and watered-down Jesus’ true identity.
“The renegade gospel espoused by Jesus was a subversive movement. Christianity was outlawed for the first three centuries of the church. Tens of thousands of followers who publicly declared their faith were executed in coliseums throughout the Roman Empire.”
Jesus was a rebel, he said some pretty rebellious things. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you this week to read at least one of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, paying special attention to the words Jesus spoke. Here are just a few examples:
“Once, on the Sabbath, Jesus boldly entered the synagogue at Capernaum and started teaching. Mark tells us, “the people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law (those Pharisees).” (Mark 1:22). Jesus was then interrupted by a person possessed by an evil spirit, who cried, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – The Holy One of God!” (Verse 24).
“The demon made an excellent point. It clearly recognized who Jesus was but certainly would never claim to be a disciple. Yet many of us who call ourselves Christians make that mistake all the time. We claim that all we have to do is believe in Jesus and then we’ll be saved. But even the demons believe! So, it’s not what we “believe” that saves us; it’s what we obey.
“When healing a paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, Jesus directed the man: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8). Similarly, Jesus directed ten lepers in Luke 17:14 to “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” The lepers were healed as they obeyed. True faith calls for a response. Jesus came to Planet Earth as a peacemaker, but he was not a peacekeeper.”
Need another example? How about in John 2, where we see an example of Jesus anger. “He found that the Temple in Jerusalem had been turned into a “den of thieves,” where businesses extorted the poor with exorbitant prices for birds or other animals that worshipers were forced to use for Temple offerings. To purchase animals for sacrifice, people had to convert their money to Temple currency, and the moneychangers had made it a won-lose proposition. Moneychangers won, and worshipers lost. When Jesus saw what was going on, he used a whip, turned over tables, and drove out the unscrupulous money mongers and cheats. His actions don’t fit the image of a docile, domesticated Jesus, a “Jesus on a leash,” or a Messiah that we can control and tame.
“Yet, Jesus clearly doesn’t represent a God of violence either, as we learned in Matthew 5:38-41. One of Jesus’ most radical teachings replaced the “eye for an eye” justice of the Old Testament. Instead, Jesus taught that if someone punched you in the face, turn the other cheek and let your antagonist blast you on the other side as well. In that same passage, Jesus challenged us with power exercises in self-control. Roman law required a passerby to carry a Roman soldier’s pack for one mile if asked, aiding in the movement of the army. Jesus said the passerby should carry the heavy pack a second mile, though only asked to go one.”
These are some radical teachings, teachings some find difficult to live today. This past week there was a tragic shooting in Texas. A 19-yr. old student entered a school, armed with an AR-15 and killed seventeen teachers and students, he injured fourteen others, five with life-threatening injuries. And once the shock began to sink in, the gun debate flared up again in all forms media, social media and mainstream. Gun enthusiasts maintain that the issue is mental health, too few resources for too many mentally ill. Some propose that we should arm the school teachers, so they can protect their students. The anti-gun folks say it’s a gun issue. If we didn’t have guns, there would be no more school shootings.
The dialogue that unfolded on my Facebook page in response to a meme I posted was truly eye opening. In full transparency I will share that I am against our general population owning military grade assault weapons. The meme that I posted, showed Uncle Sam, laying over protecting a man in a suit who had the name tag “NRA” on his chest. All around them were the bodies of shooting victims. The words spoken by Uncle Same says, “Everything’s ok, you’re safe,” as he tried to calm down the NRA.
Radical? Yes, but it made a point and unleashed a torrent of opinions and comments. Most were respectful as I expected. Several of my friends hit below the belt, calling names and making outrageous accusations against me and one another, including that I was unchristian, a bully and that you, my church, should take a close look at your pastor because he believed I was a “flaming far left anti American liberal.” What?! I was also accused of being a bully because my views were contrary to hers.
Here’s the deal. Gun ownership is a hot topic and there are relevant reasons both for and against the personal ownership of guns. School shootings have become too often an occurrence and we have to stop standing around and just “sending our thoughts and prayers,” when we need to DO something different, so we can anticipate different outcomes.
Organizations that promote gun ownership will fight to the death to keep their second amendment rights, so they may own any and all types of weapons. As followers of Jesus I believe we are called to take a different approach to gun violence, we are called to be radical like Jesus, going against our modern traditions.
Our own United Methodist Church includes gun violence in the Book of Resolutions, paragraph 3426. It states, “violence and, more particularly, violence to children and youth is a primary concern for United Methodists. We recognize and deplore violence which kills and injures children and youth. In the name of Christ, who came and “announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from god and to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:17) and challenged his disciples to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), we call upon the church to affirm its faith through victorious efforts to curb and eliminate gun violence.”
I believe we can all agree that the eliminating gun violence is a goal for which we can rally around. Where it gets sticky is how to do that. As a flaming liberal who abhors guns, my solution would be very different than a member of the NRA, although we can certainly agree on what the problem is (children being killed in schools by guns) and what the ultimate goal is (to end gun violence), but we don’t agree on the cause of or solutions needed to reach the ultimate goal of putting an end to gun violence.
Here is where we must be like Jesus and stand up for what we believe and do so with love and grace. We must be radical like Jesus and show kindness to those who hold different opinions that we do. We must turn the other cheek, we must go against leaders in our country who believe differently than we do when their beliefs are hurting our children. We must learn as much as we can about the situation and understand that most are complicated, and no one solution will give us the lasting effect we want.
I have been accused at times of being too political and perhaps that is true. I work hard to be like Jesus and to live as I believe he would in our modern era. I believe in loving each other as Jesus taught us and using that a lens to view the world there are many things that are wrong with our society that we can work to change. I care less about political party and more about integrity and honesty from our leaders. I view the sanctity of human life ahead of common practice. I am willing, like Jesus to stand up to the Pharisees and fight for what I believe God has called us to fight for.
As United Methodists that is one of the things we are known for, for getting involved with social justice and working together to make our world a better place. We were feeding the poor before it was common practice, we fought against slavery while it was still legal, we were in the forefront of the civil rights movement, standing up for those whose voice had been silenced.
And today, we are called to advocate at the local and national level for laws that prevent or reduce gun violence. This isn’t my idea, although I agree with it. This is a resolution that was passed in 2016 at the last General Conference held in Portland Oregon.
Some of the measures we are called to promote include:
- Universal background checks on all gun purchases.
- Ensuring all guns are sold through licensed gun retailers.
- Prohibiting all individuals convicted of violent crimes or under restraining order due to violence from purchasing a gun.
- Prohibiting persons with serious mental illness, who pose a danger to themselves and their communities, from purchasing a gun and at the same time ensuring greater access to services for those suffering from mental illness
- We are to fight to establish a minimum age of 21 years old for a gun purchase or possession.
- And last, we are to work to ban large-capacity ammunition magazines and weapons designed to fire multiple rounds each time the trigger is pulled
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to model him and it’s time for us to channel our Rebel Jesus! Especially when it comes to the fight to reduce and eliminate violence to our citizens from guns. We must be willing to deny ourselves and to take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. We must move from believing in Jesus Christ, to obeying him and becoming a Rebel with a cause. Amen
 Slaughter, Mike. Renegade Gospel. The Rebel Jesus. Abington Press, Nashville, TN. 2014. Page 19-20.
 Page 23
 2012 Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, page 490
 The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church – 2016. Copyright © 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House.