God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life.
There’s a phrase almost guaranteed NOT to make an appearance at the next revival or evangelism event in your church. When introducing Jesus to others, we more often than not default to the meek and mild savior who rolls his eyes at our follies, who is our buddy when we want Him near and who conveniently walks the other way in situations where He is really not welcome. The attractive Jesus of the blue eyes and curly blond hair and piercing stare is the one who adorns our church walls and literature.
But what of the Jesus who makes a whip of cords to clear the temple, who expresses his anger and frustration at the blindness of his disciples, and who will leave us alone at just the wrong moment? What do we do with this Jesus, author Mark Galli asks in his superb book Jesus Mean and Wild. I’ve been wanting to read this book for about a year now and after finally sitting down for a couple of days to do so, I was not disappointed. Galli leads us to look at Jesus in a way different from how we usually encounter him, as the militant whose love for us sometimes takes the form of tough love. As he walks us through different passages in the Gospel of Mark, we run into a Jesus whose idea of comforting our wounds is to salt them – painful in the short term but healing in the long run.
The Jesus that we are reminded of in the pages of Galli’s book is a portrait that the modern Church often reads quickly past. This is the Jesus that loves us enough to speak harshly to us in order to encourage our repentance. He is the savior that is willing to heal but rebukes the receiver of the miracle as He pushes him away. The Rabbi we encounter is disrespectful of authority other than those truly devoted to the Father. In a reminder that is needed by the churches today that strive for relevance above all else, Jesus appears to us (Mark 8:31-33) as the ultimate measure of irrelevance. In a chapter that points out that following Jesus faithfully is far and beyond more important than being culturally relevant [that is also excerpted in Christianity Today July 2006], Galli offers a cutting warning to Church and pastors of vision.
Coming to the final chapters of the book makes you want to return to page one and soak in this portrait of Jesus all over again, slowly savoring the words and illustrations that help us to see a more well rounded Jesus than we are often tempted to preach or talk about. With just a few pages remaining, Galli gives us the starkest reminder of the way of the Savior when he says “Just when we need him most, God forsakes us.” We certainly do not want to admit this about our Lord, but he leaves us alone just at those moments that we most desperately think that we need Him. Why? So that we can share in the grief that Jesus knew at that bleak moment on the cross when he cried out to the silent heavens and know the indescribable joy of reuniting with God when He chooses to break the silence. We are shaken but stronger, mute in His glory but far more merciful than we could ever imagine.