Jesus, Master Troll

It's hard being a Christian. On the one hand, there is the image that everyone has from going to Sunday School, of Christians as goody-two-shoes. They dress nicely, eat bland cookies, don't swear, wait until marriage to have sex, always have a smile on their face, and are, basically, boring as Heaven.

On the other hand, there's Jesus. Jesus drank with sinners. Jesus ate with tax collectors. Jesus made friends with women of ill repute. Jesus wandered about the countryside gathering crowds and scaring the authorities.

Jesus was a troll.

Think about the day he announced himself to his village. He stood up and read the Scriptures for the day:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
And then he gave the book to the attendant, sat down, and said:
"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
And all wondered and said, how could it be, wasn't he Joseph's son? At which he replied,
"Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country."
And the people rose up against him, and drove him out of town.

This was only the beginning of his trolling. Constantly, Jesus would say things that enraged the learned authorities of his day, overturning the Law by which they strove to live.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
As if--Jesus seems to be saying--it makes no difference whether you follow the Law, and yet following the Law is never enough? What do you think those like the Pharisees who spent their lives trying to live according to the Law would have to say about this? Or the scribes who kept the records in the Temple, and oversaw the sacrifices of the people to the Lord? And Jesus shows up and says, "None of this matters"?!

They came after him, as you know. Setting traps for him in debate. As the former tax collector Matthew tells it:
Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"  
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the money for the tax."
And they brought him a coin. And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?"
They said, "Caesar's."
Then he said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
When they heard it, they marveled, and they left him and went away.
Methinks Matthew is overplaying his hand here in favor of his Lord. Most likely what they did was go away grinding their teeth, trying to think of some other way to snare him and have him declared an enemy of the state.

"Christ driving the money changers from the Temple,"
by Jan Sanders van Hemessen
Jesus knew they all hated him, both the Pharisees on the Right, who tried to live purely according to the Law, and the scribes on the Left, who were functionaries of the Jewish state. And he denounced them regularly in his preaching as hypocrites and fools.
"Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
And then he marched into Jerusalem, straight up to the most holy place in the city, and vandalized it.

"It is written," he said, "'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of thieves."

Authorities on both the Right and the Left were not pleased.

You know the rest of the story.

Jesus so enraged the holders of power in his community that they trumped up charges against him, trying to get him to blaspheme so that they could invoke the death penalty against him.

When Truth speaks to Power, Power bites back. Hard.

But what Power does not know is that Truth will prevail. Because Jesus's kingdom is not of this world.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
For Milo.

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