Jesus Under Fire
When you’re nervous or intimidated, do you struggle to think clearly? How about when you’re being questioned or even bullied? That phrase, “Stress makes you stupid,” describes the way we struggle to answer the easiest of questions when we feel inadequate or challenged.
Because of this, I’ve always been mesmerized by Jesus’ clarity and peace during the “day of questions” of the final week of his earthly life. Group after adversarial group came to him trying to trick him. He knew what they were up to, yet he was not intimidated. He gave answers that not only showed his clarity of thinking (as opposed to our muddled thinking when stressed) but also his brilliance in sorting out complex questions (“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s . . .,”). I picture him that day with his shoulders relaxed, his voice calm, not indulging in dramatic or overstated questions, completely himself under fire.
Nor was Jesus combative. He didn’t try to silence his questioners or play one-up games with them. He took every question seriously and then spoke back to the deeper issues behind them (usually the Great Commandment: love God; love others). Even when he answered their question with another question (Matt. 21:23-26) it wasn’t out of irritability, but to point them to the answer. (For more about Jesus as an exceptional teacher, see chapter 12 of Invitation to the Jesus Life.)
In order for Jesus to respond to these testy intimidations with calmness, clarity, and depth, he must have lived with a deep peace inside him unknown to most of us. His OKness was not about who liked him or didn’t like him, about who approved of him or didn’t approve of him, about whether bad or good things were about to happen to him. He walked this earth in complete peace – I think of Jesus as “peace on wheels.” He had the kind of peace I begin to taste when I move through the day saying, “The Lord really is my shepherd; I do have everything I need; I can be like that crazy sheep, lying down satisfied in the green pasture. I can face shadows and darkness without fear because God really is me. can even sit across the table from a difficult person and remember that I am an anointed one of God with my cup full of whatever I need at this moment. My body really can be God’s dwelling place every minute of my life.” As I do this, I taste the inner life of Jesus.
Much of the above is from a wisbit I sent out in July 2005. (I’m out speaking a lot just now so I looked for a favorite wisbit to repeat.) But as I read the above, I saw that back then I missed the most obvious issue: Jesus genuinely loved people, including his questioners. So he didn’t see them as opponents or adversaries but as people standing in front of him that he had the opportunity to love. This was how Jesus lived and breathed, loving God and loving others. We, too, can move into such a life, loving God and others even if it’s only for the next ten minutes throughout the day.
Grace and peace,
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