If Jesus walked the Earth in the flesh in 2017, where would He go? What would He do? Who would He spend His time with?
I wonder about that every so often.
In response, I turn to the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which describe the life He lived among us. There isn’t much in the Bible about the first 30 years of His life, but His three-year ministry offers plenty of evidence about what and who were important to Him.
Inside the church
Jesus spent some time in the synagogue, the church of His day. He spoke there on occasion as a visiting preacher. He did a healing or two there. He overturned the money changers’ tables there when He discovered they were overcharging the parishioners who needed to buy sacrificial animals.
Most often when He visited the synagogue, He was not there to worship. He was there to confront the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who ran the synagogue and knew the Old Testament Scriptures inside and out, but still didn’t understand them. The leaders missed the prophesies about Jesus in the Scriptures. They also added a whole lot of rules to the Books of the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament, which describe in detail how a follower of the living God was supposed to live.
Jesus called them blind guides and hypocrites. When He claimed to be God and to have an intimate relationship with His Father, they went berserk. They killed him for that.
Christians, beware. Jesus attacked religious leaders hard. They didn’t take it well.
Should Jesus visit the United States in the flesh in 2017, I fear He would give a similar message to the church today. And we would give Him a similar fate. Not every local church would reject Him, but many would. This scares me.
Does it scare you?
Outside the church
However, my reading of the Gospels tells me that Jesus spent most of His time outside the synagogue, with tax collectors and sinners. He gave them the benefit of the doubt every time. He was all compassion:
- The woman caught in adultery.
- A Samaritan woman at a well. (The religious leaders of His day treated women like second-class citizens. Jesus treated them like the daughters of God they were – and are. Jesus could be considered a radical feminist, if you read the Bible that way.)
- Matthew, a hated tax collector, one of the 12 in His inner circle.
- Zacchaeus, a religious leader who asked the right questions.
- All kinds of people who came to Him for healing, both physical and demonic.
- Hungry people. (He fed 5,000 of them with five loaves of bread and two fish.)
- A couple getting married who ran out of wine. (Jesus liked to party, by the way.)
- And on, and on.
As Christians, we so often spend most of our free time inside the walls of our churches. We worship there, we study the Bible there, we offer social programs there and invite the community in.
That’s not what Jesus did.
- He prayed on mountainsides.
- He healed people in their own homes.
- He ate at their homes, too. Matthew is a great example. He wanted his friends to meet Jesus, so he invited them to dinner, then invited Jesus to join them.
- He traveled the countryside, visiting cities and towns along the way. He counseled his 12 disciples as they walked and as they served those they met.
I think this should be our pattern, too. We need to worship; Jesus did not avoid the synagogue, even though He wasn’t very happy with most of the leaders He met there.
But Jesus spent most of His time mingling with unbelievers on their turf. He was comfortable in crowds; He was comfortable in one-on-one settings, and in groups of just a few people. He traveled. He had a hometown, but He didn’t claim it. He knew Jerusalem was important, and He did spend time there (and died there), but He visited other places as well.
A few years ago there was a bracelet in Christian circles that was all the rage: WWJD. What Would Jesus Do? It was a fad question that most Christians didn’t take seriously, but that’s the question I’m asking. What would Jesus do? Really?
Are we prepared to do the same? He said we should.
Perhaps big fancy church buildings aren’t a good witness. I’m not sure Jesus would be impressed with them. He’d rather those resources – money and human time – be spent elsewhere.
Jesus said full-time Christian workers should be paid a fair wage. This is important.
Taking the job home
But our leaders should be equipping the rest of us to do the work of the church – outside the church, in our spheres of influence. That’s what Jesus did with His 12 disciples. He gave them His heart, then told them to go make disciples of all nations.
I meet people every day who would never set foot inside a church. If I call myself a Christian, I am Jesus to them. How do I wear that “job title?” Do I represent Christ well?
Is your church equipping you to be the church to those outside the church? If not, what’s the point of church?
Yes, we worship God and praise Him for what He’s done for us.
So what? Do we leave our praise on the altar? Or do we take it home with us?
That’s what Jesus did.
And what He’d continue to do in 2017.