Welcome to the idea that won’t leave me alone. Bad Company is a way at looking at the experiences of Jesus – God incarnate, born of a virgin, bringer of the Kingdom of God, carpenter’s son, God’s son, teacher, healer, prophet, Servant, crucified, buried and raised Messiah. Ascended King and Lord.
That’s a tall resume. The identity claims Jesus of Nazareth brokered were consequential to the nth degree. You either listened to him or you dismissed him outright. You agreed with him or you wanted to shut him up immediately. You loved him or you hated him. He was not a small, comfortable person for your ego to be around.
Bad Company is an attempt to recollect what happened when a human claiming to be God did impossible feats of healing. Saying things only a man who thought he was God could dare try to get away with. “Bad Company” was the label he earned from almost everyone at one point or another. Everyone except people whose legs didn’t work. Or if you had leprosy. Or were trapped in the sex industry of your village. Or if you were one of hundreds who liked seeing religious authorities squirm in their own arrogant judgmentalism.
The Jesus of social, religious and political controversy isn’t unheard of by most who’ve read the New Testament documents. Controversy and rejection are everywhere it seems. Yet this Jesus isn’t the one commercial Christianity most wants to show you if you’re an outsider. Most pictures of Jesus found on the camera roll among church-folk are very chummy. Jesus appears magnetic. Therapeutic. Ridiculously nice, inviting you to join church and eventually tithe (getting saved and baptized along the way of course).
But what about the obnoxious Jesus that people repeatedly wanted to kill? How could his own hometown want to lynch him after the first time he preached in their synagogue? How could Jesus at the same time use his obvious power to work miracles of humiliating compassion, then turn and require an upstanding Jewish citizen of means to give his estate to the poor and come follow himself! Why did he push so many buttons?
Bad Company is an adventure. What would happen if we researched every episode of rejection Jesus’ words and actions evoked? What would his popularity failures show us about his identity and purpose? Let’s replace the sanitized hero we’re often shown, with the gritty intellect of a man smarter than you, more powerful than you, with the wisdom to know he doesn’t have to defeat you to subvert your natural dislike of him. Consider the following paradigm of his public relations.
Jesus the Proskomotos
The Greek word for a rock you trip over: proskomotos. The apostle Paul reflecting on Isaiah 8:13-15 identifies Jesus as the stumbling stone, the proskomotos. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote about God in Bad Company terms when he says:
“The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread. He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”
This is not the image of holy attraction today’s mega-churches are trying to sell you. I guarantee you that. What hapless communications director would script his lead pastor to recommend splitting shins wide open as an alter-call. “Seekers, come avail yourself of God’s unconditional love – but mind your step around that guy Jesus. He’ll knock your kneecaps right off.”
Proskomotos is a fitting paradigm. So is Bad Company. The logic has a centrifugal pull once you’re inside it (after you’ve taken your first really bad fall). If Jesus were in fact God in the form of a man, what else would you expect in his presence? He strains and strains to stoop to our tiny minds. He exercises more power of restraint than miraculous energy to refrain from what he could say. To NOT power-up to get the results he wanted. What he did say and do would be hard enough. Not gushy magnetism. Attraction? Yes. But with it repulsion. He literally would be too much to take. Tripping. Stumbling. Rejection. Incredulity.
Did Jesus consider himself Bad Company?
“Jesus said to them. Have you never read the Scriptures: The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” Matt 21:42ff
He absolutely did. He wasn’t afraid to be Bad Company for the right reasons.
In these posts, I’ll explore the story of Jesus, Proskomotos. My hope is that a fresh encounter with his exasperating greatness will shin-bone-shatter your pretensions about a therapeutic nice-guy. My hunch is that you really do long for a leader greater than your personal need and a mind more brilliant than the smartest person you know! Consumerism tells you can purchase anything – and that everything worth your money has been branded, just waiting for you to find it on a web-page. Not Proskomotos. Not that many people really want to find this guy!
I’m developing a series of messages that I’ll be giving at Cedar Campus during Family Camp. More on Family Camp later. More on Cedar Campus too! In the days ahead I’ll be outlining five Bad Company narratives from the New Testament – Jesus dealing with rejection from his family and hometown, from religious authorities, political authorities and rejection even from his most loyal followers.