‘Jesus Mean and Wild’ is not among the usual titles for Christ. But it is name of a book by the scholarly and feisty American writer, Mark Galli, who has grown tired of a Jesus who is seen only as meek and mild. Galli has carefully re-read the earliest account of the life of Jesus, the Gospel of Mark.
There, he says, he finds seventeen passages where Jesus is much less warm, friendly, loving, sweet, gentle, innocent and patient than most readers want to believe. In fact, this original Jesus can be deliberately confusing, impatient and even angry, stern and confrontational. Jesus shows anger and passion, hurt and real disappointment as he interacts with the people he meets. Jesus also displays gentleness, self-control and remarkable patience. But he could also be fiery, “mean” and “wild”; search for yourself in Mark chapters 3, 7, 8, 11.
So, what might these possibly troubling passages suggest to us about the Jesus whose example Christians are called to follow? Or about the God that Jesus himself is said to model? Galli suggests we consider the following;
- Jesus loves us with “an unnerving and irresistible love” even when he gets frustrated with those around him who should have started to “get it” by now.
- Jesus is not like a comforting teddy bear; and he doesn’t cater to my me-me-me demands no matter how much I complain.
- The Gospels are telling us disgruntled children: This is what love, real and tough love, actually looks like. Jesus might like us just the way we are, but he isn’t concerned about us staying the same. He demands that we be different.
These passages in Mark’s Gospel also challenge many of our casual assumptions about the living God. God appears as an awesome, mysterious, all-powerful, sometimes-distant God who is loving but not in an indulgent way. As Galli puts it, God loves me enough to speak truth, withhold harmful things, block my path and even withdraw his presence for a time. In other words, Jesus can and does bring us into the presence of something – Someone – both dangerous and wonderful and untameable.
“This Jesus reveals not a … sentimental love – a love that merely makes us feel good – but a love capable of saving a desperate world.” As the Easter season will remind us.
Rev Dr Bob Robinson