There are stories about Jesus that we love to hear and to tell—stories of surprising compassion and radical love—and then there are those stories that don’t jibe with Jesus as we ordinarily imagine him. These stories present Jesus in a way that can be difficult for us to incorporate into the larger picture of Jesus that we have created, so we tend to skip over them and pretend they’re not really there (or dismiss them as the work of the errant pen of a gospel writer). But we might find, as we dwell with these stories, that it is good for us to be unsettled by Jesus, and that these challenging stories can sharpen our sense of who Jesus was and what it means to follow him.
Who Can Understand?
Sunday, January 10, 2021
Jesus explains to his disciples why he teaches in parables, and his explanation is far from satisfying. The fact that Jesus is difficult to understand—perhaps even intentionally so—may tell us just as much about ourselves as it does about him.
Who Can Follow?
Sunday, January 17, 2021
Jesus makes demands of his disciples so stringent and uncompromising that we can’t help but wonder if anyone can truly follow him. The reason his demand seems so unreasonable to us is that we struggle to put our loves in the proper order—but doing so is a prerequisite for discipleship.
Who Is Worthy?
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Jesus encounters a Gentile woman who seeks healing for her daughter. While it may seem like the set-up for a straightforward miracle story, it is anything but. In this desperate woman, Jesus is confronted with the question of how broad his ministry is really supposed to be, and by extension, how expansive the good news of the kingdom of God will ultimately become.
Who's With Jesus?
Sunday, January 31, 2021
As Jesus nears the end of his ministry and prepares for his confrontation with authorities, he seems to command his disciples to take up arms—a very striking departure from the tone and substance of his teaching up to that point. His followers are eager to oblige his request, but in their hurry to answer the call to arms, they reveal how much they (and we) still have to learn about Jesus and his kingdom.
Who Wins God's Favor?
Sunday, February 7, 2021
In what is generally regarded as Jesus’ most difficult parable, Jesus seems to be praising the cunning and dishonesty of a manager who defrauds his master to save his own skin. Somewhere in this unsavory behavior is a lesson for Christian discipleship, but it certainly doesn’t jump off the page.
Who Is Good?
Sunday, February 14, 2021
In a very familiar episode of the gospel story, Jesus overturns the tables of money changers in the temple. But just before he does this, he does a strange thing we’re not so familiar with: he curses a fig tree because he’s hungry and it has no fruit to offer him. This bizarre scene may look like a small tantrum, but in reality it is a symbol meant to help us understand Jesus’ more dramatic action in the temple.