Jesus Behaving Badly

2466I like Mr. Rogers. He no doubt revealed more of Christ in his neighborhood than many evangelicals do today. But Mark Strauss says that Jesus isn’t a Mr. Rogers lookalike or the warm fuzzies, flannelgraph Jesus.

Mark Strauss (Ph.D. University of Aberdeen) is professor of New Testament at Bethel Seminary in San Diego. He is the author of several books including Four Portraits, One Jesus (2007) and commentaries on Mark’s Gospel in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Series and Expositor’s Series. He is also the associate editor for the NIV Study Bible.

In his latest book, Jesus Behaving Badly: The Puzzling Paradoxes of the Man from Galilee (IVP Books-Sept 2015), Mark sets out to reveal Jesus of Nazareth in all of his complexities, paradoxes, and tensions.

Echoing the refrain of Albert Schweitzer (Quest of the Historical Jesus), Mark says that we must resist the temptation to fashion Jesus into our own image or into what we’d like him to be, ignoring the parts that we don’t like or those bits we simply don’t get. It’s all or nothing when it comes to Jesus.

The book suggests that we often overlook that Jesus was judgmental, provocative, chauvinistic, racist, anti-environmental, and angry.

Or so it would seem without understanding his first-century context and the manner and method of Jesus in light of his own situation.

Mark writes:

So when  we observe Jesus’ apparent bad behavior with reference to slaves or family values or the death of pigs or the cursing of fig trees, we are asked to view him as he is, not as we wish he were–not as someone with twenty-first century sensibilities toward equality or the environment. We may not always be happy with the results, and we probably shouldn’t be. Ultimately we have to decide if we are going to sit in judgment on Jesus or listen and learn from him. (pg. 14)

In 12 chapters and exactly 200 pages, Mark addresses the following:

  1. Everybody Likes Jesus
  2. Revolutionary or Pacifist?
  3. Angry or Loving?
  4. Environmentalist or Earth Scorcher?
  5. Legalist or Grace Filled?
  6. Hellfire Preacher or Gentle Shepherd?
  7. Antifamily or Family Friendly?
  8. Racist or Inclusivist?
  9. Sexist or Egalitarian?
  10. Was Jesus Anti-Semitic?
  11. Failed Prophet or Victorious King?
  12. Decaying Corpse or Resurrected Lord?

While this book is for popular reading, it will not disappoint.

Jesus Behaving Badly looks at some of the puzzling and seemingly offensive things Jesus said and did, and tries to make sense of them. What we just might find is that when Jesus is at his most difficult, he is also at his most profound. (pg. 14)

Is your church dealing with any of these concerns? Want to read the book in a class or a small group? Well, there are discussion questions for that!

I had a brief conversation with Mark a few years ago at SBL in Atlanta. He is not only a scholar within historical Jesus studies, he is a pastor as well. It wasn’t a long conversation, but I’ll never forget the interest he took in my family and his sincere encouragement to me in life and ministry. He is a living example of a disciple who is holding the academy and the church together.

That’s why I’m happy not only to recommend this book, but also to suggest you get to know Mark better by reading all of his works.

Want a good book for Christmas? This one will do.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.

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About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David has over 15 years experience as a pastor and teacher in and outside the church. He currently pastors an Anabaptist congregation in Virginia. View all posts by David D. Flowers

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