Recently in our Jesus in the Gospels classes, we spent a session reading and discussing the events of Holy Week, especially the actions of Jesus. Our study books ended the lesson with this thought-provoking passage:
“(Holy Week) presents two differing images of Jesus—the humble, silent man riding into Jerusalem and the assertive figure striding into the Temple. Disciples might therefore conclude that they may choose which Jesus to regard as the model to be followed. But choosing either image, we would—unwittingly—replace following a whole Jesus with following that aspect of Jesus that confirms what we prefer. But is not the whole point of following Jesus that we should be more challenged than reinforced?”
Reading these words led to discussion of “which Jesus” is more likely to be found not just as our own preference, but as the preference of the church. And there was general agreement that most of us have heard much more about the “humble Jesus” than the assertive, more prophetic Jesus. This is not surprising, since the former image of him is much more comforting, while the latter forces us into a mode of self-examination (as individuals and as the church). And the further truth is that it is not just in the midst of the Holy Week stories that we get these contrasting views of Jesus, they occur throughout the gospel accounts of his life. In many places we see Jesus alternating between “servant” and “prophet”, often within the same story.
As we prepare to hear the Holy Week stories again, the call for each of us is to feel both the comfort (that Jesus would die for us as the ultimate act of humility and servanthood) and at the same time to be confronted by the reality that there are times when we deny and betray Jesus ourselves. We need to remember that when Jesus says to his disciples that “one of you will betray me”, he is not just talking about Judas. These dual views of Jesus and his message are necessary for us to embrace if we are to grow in our discipleship, for when we follow the “whole Jesus”, the truth is that comfort and challenge always go hand-in-hand.