Do what is necessary
February 24, 2019
Like many, I have been watching the high profile U.S. congressional hearings on television. In a fraught political context with high stakes, lawmakers are increasingly asking questions designed not to shed light on an issue, but to elicit incriminating responses or to simply humiliate and harass the person in the hot seat. In John 8, Jesus was in the hot seat, having one of many contentious conversations with the Pharisees and teachers of the law. As he was aggressively questioned about his identity and authority, he neither cowered nor withered; he answered truthfully, directly and confidently. He even took shots at his adversaries, calling them liars who had no idea what they were talking about!
One must wonder how Jesus felt during such encounters. The gospels present him as an easy-going gentle guy who was given to neither aggression nor hostility. He loved people and enjoyed teaching, helping and hanging out with them at social events. There was, however, one variable that occasionally made him reveal his “other side”—his deep commitment to doing God’s will. Whenever people said or did things that interfered with, compromised or threatened his fulfilment of that will, he responded in ways some might have considered “out of character.” He argued forcefully with his opponents; turned tables; and called people who seemed more interested in fault-finding than truth “snakes,” “white-washed tombs,” and “children of the devil” among other gems. At one point, Jesus even called one of his disciples “Satan” after he suggested that he not die (Matt. 16:22-23). (To be clear, I am not advocating name-calling! Jesus could call people names because he knew exactly what was in their hearts; we, on the other hand, rarely ever have that kind of clarity nor the authority to sit in judgment, so name-calling should be largely out of our reach.)
Jesus probably did not enjoy such confrontations, but he never shied away from them either. When the circumstances called for them, he did what was necessary.