Maybe you’ve just read the title of this blog and thought, “Surely Jesus doesn’t get exasperated? He’s gentle Jesus meek and mild right?” Wrong! In fact, Jesus is never described as “mild” in the Bible while he is defined as “meek.”[i]
The mild Jesus seems to be the invention of hymns, poems, and a rather insipid view of the Christian faith that sees strong emotion as sinful or at least unfitting of God. And yet, in the Bible God is portrayed as angry against injustice and jealous over his people. God has strong feelings, and so does Jesus (God in human form).
The Gospels frequently describe the emotions of Jesus. At various times He was joyful, exhausted, angry, sorrowful, compassionate, frustrated, empathetic, disgusted and, yes, exasperated.
Mark’s gospel describes a time when “The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking for a sign from heaven, to test him. He sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.”(Mark 8:11-13 NIV) Notice that Jesus, “sighed deeply in his spirit”. He was experiencing strong emotion, intense exasperation, because of the stubbornness of the Pharisees.
A quick look at the previous chapters shows us why Jesus was so annoyed with these guys asking for a sign. Not long before this Jesus fed 5,000+ predominantly Jewish people on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. A while later he sailed to the eastern side of this Sea and fed 4000+ gentiles. Add to that some healings and miracles, and walking on water, and it’s easy to understand his exasperation – there was already so much to see, but they wanted more.
Feeding the More Mentality
Sadly, the “mentality of more” didn’t pass away with the Pharisees. It’s still alive and well even amongst followers of Jesus today who have bought into a consumer mindset of their faith.
While the poor are being fed, orphans adopted, and healings are happening; pastors and leaders faithfully preach and teach the Scriptures week after week, provide opportunities for service, connection, and worship, encourage, pray, counsel, and inspire with vision, some Christians too easily ‘channel their inner Pharisee’ and ask for more – a bit like Oliver Twist.
The twist here is that, unlike Oliver, Christians in the Western world are already exceptionally well fed, but what they have is never enough.
Our needs aren’t being met in this church anymore.
The sermons are not relevant to me.
The worship is better is that church (whatever that means).
The songs are too modern/old, too loud/quiet, fast/slow.
The list is endless, and I’m sure you get the picture. Amazing things are happening all around these people but they want more and, like the consumers they are, they will go anywhere to get what they want.
The Heart of the Problem
The fundamental problem here is that these consumer Christians, just like the Pharisees that exasperated Jesus, have put themselves in the centre of the universe. In their minds, even if they don’t express it plainly, the whole world revolves around them, their needs and their wants.
And so, life is a constant disappointment because the rest of the world doesn’t recognise the position they perceive for themselves. They are restless souls always looking to get their own way, and for everything to be made-to-order just the way they like it.
No church can be that for every person all the time. Bayside Church doesn’t always tick every box for me, even though I’m its senior leader. My leadership of Bayside isn’t about getting my way or styling a church that I always enjoy. I’ve made a choice to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. But instead, in humility I try and value others above myself, not looking to my own interests but to the interests of the others (Phil 2:3-4).
I continuously seek to take myself off the throne of my life and make sure Jesus is firmly in his rightful place. Sometimes I succeed at this. I encourage you to do the same. You’ll be surprised at how much your church (or workplace, or family) improves when you do, and you’ll stop exasperating the people around you (most of the time).
[i] Meekness is having power under control. Jesus was all-powerful but also self-controlled. Meekness should never be confused with weakness.