When you read through the gospels it’s amazing how often people want to redact Jesus. People want to edit what he says; the Pharisees want him to edit what he says about the Sabbath or the kingdom or the errors in their religion. The disciples want him to stop talking about the cross and his impending death, and everyone wants him to stop talking about the things that make them uncomfortable – his views on marriage, divorce, money and discipleship. They want the miracles working good teacher full of grace who doesn’t make them uncomfortable or challenge them too much on their sin or their societies move away from God’s word.
How does Jesus respond? He keeps teaching with authority. At times he withdraws to pray. He keeps on performing miracles accrediting his teaching as the very word God from the Son of God. He rebukes his disciples. He confronts the Pharisees and Sadducees and confounds their questioning and attempts to discredit him. Jesus won’t be redacted. He won’t change his teaching, he won’t be silenced on the things the people don’t want teaching on or which confronts the respectable sins of the day.
Following Jesus means denying ourselves, carrying our cross and following him and that includes in his teaching, all of it. To follow Jesus is not just to do good, to love your neighbour, it is to obey him. Jesus says if we love him we will obey his commands. At the end of Matthew he sends his disciples out to make disciples of all nations teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. That’s an astonishing statement. Jesus won’t be redacted, he won’t be edited, we’re not at liberty to silence some of his teaching, or teach – or believe – around the hard bits but avoiding them, or take the black out pen or scissors to his words. Following Jesus means hearing and obeying everything he commands – his words on identity, marriage, divorce, giving, greed and church and acting on them.
You can’t be a disciple of a redacted Jesus. If you won’t believe what he teaches, if you won’t follow it, you aren’t following him, you’re following a fabled Messiah of your own imagination, a therapeutic Messiah who ultimately as a work of fiction has no eternal life to offer you and no hope of life now amidst all the garbage of glory of this world. Part of discipleship is denying ourselves, that includes denying what I would like to think and wrestling to believe what Jesus teaches. It means seeing his love for us displayed in all its glory in his life, death and resurrection and believing that he is so for you that everything he teaches is for your, and the world’s, good.
I wonder sometimes if we redact Jesus because we aren’t fully convinced of his goodness. If we’re not totally sold on the truth that he has come to bring life and life to that full. We think that there’s an alternative, or an amalgam of Jesus teaching and the world’s, that is somehow better. I’ll have a bit of Jesus and a bit of this way of thinking or teaching, it’ll make following Jesus easier and more attractive. But if we redact Jesus at all then we haven’t understood who he is. He is the only Son of God declaring not a possible truth, but THE truth to us. He is THE life not one possible variation of it that we can tweak or improve if we just ignore this bit or add that bit.