Does Jesus confuse you? I mean really confuse you–like, Christianity seems frustrating and full of contradictions and maybe not worth pursuing at all. Some of the stories you hear about Jesus seem great–sometimes he seems full of love and acceptance and, you know, he’s helping people and talking about love and everything like that. And then some of the stories you hear are just odd–the weird parables, the talk of the end of the world, the really harsh sounding things he says about “repenting” and things like that. What’s really going on with the whole Jesus thing?
If you or anyone you know has that reaction to Jesus, what’s the answer? Interestingly enough, the answer is found right in the histories of Jesus’ earthly life that we have preserved in the New Testament. The kind of reaction to Jesus that starts with interest and degenerates into confused frustration is exactly the kind of reaction we read that people had towards him during his public teaching ministry. In fact, it was probably, by the numbers, the most common reaction to Jesus. In the gospel accounts, we read about many times when people were “amazed,” “astonished,” “afraid,” “offended,” and just generally confused, or even turned off, by the things he said and did.
But of course, everyone didn’t end up that way, even if it was how they started out. What was the difference? How did some people press through the sometimes difficult-to-understand things Jesus did and said, to get to a place of insight and appreciation? The answer is surprisingly simple, and, once you see it in the Bible, you realize that it was always there. For instance, just in the book of Mark, there’s all of these verses:
But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. (4:10)
But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. (4:34)
When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable. (7:17 )
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” (9:28)
Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” (9:33)
In the house His disciples also asked Him again about the same matter. (10:10)
These verses show a consistent pattern. There were the crowds who would often get confused by what he was saying. Even many of those who, at one time, considered themselves his followers, after a while, stopped following, because what he was saying was too hard. (In John chapter 6 you read these verses: “Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’… From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”) But there were others, like those Mark writes about in the verses above, who were too interested in the things he was saying and doing to walk away. And all they had to do was hang around, wait for the crowds to leave, and ask Jesus what he was talking about. And every time (read the passages!) he explained himself clearly to them.
And the same principle holds today.
God is still working. The message of Jesus is still going out. The stories of the things he did, and the words he said, are still there for any man or woman to grapple with. If they confuse you, and you end up giving up on it all, then you end up to have nothing to do with Jesus. If they confuse you, but entice you, and you decide to stick it out and find out what Jesus was doing and what he was talking about, you will get your answers. If you attach yourself to him by applying yourself, over the long haul, to learn, Jesus will give you insight. This is called, “being a disciple.” You will come to have an ever-growing understanding of what you need to know, and who Jesus is, and what he’s asking of you, and how he’ll help you do it.
You will be a follower of Jesus.
And the word to you will be:
To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables.
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.
For whoever has, to him more will be given.