I just finished reviewing a really fantastic collection of studies edited by Scot McKnight and Joseph B. Modica called, Who Do My Opponents Say that I am: An Investigation of the Accusations Against the Historical Jesus. The idea was to study all of the things that Jesus was accused of by his opponents to ascertain what we can learn about the historical Jesus from said accusations. It was a fascinating book and made me think about the perception of one’s enemies as very revealing about oneself. Here are some of the highlights of the book:

  1. Jesus was accused of being a ‘law breaker.’ Though Jesus as a good Jew, was certainly Torah observant, Michael Bird, who studied this accusation concludes that such was Jesus’ view of the importance of the Kingdom that “where the mission of the kingdom and Torah conflicted the Torah had to give way” (p. 25).
  2. Jesus was accused of being ‘demon possessed.’ The fact that Jesus’ miracles were never denied but were instead accused to stem from a malevolent power rather than a divine one, says a lot about the historicity of Jesus as a miracle worker.
  3. Jesus was accused of being a ‘glutton and a drunkard.’ This is more serious than perhaps it seems. Joseph B. Modica, who studied this accusation, shows how this accusation is really accusing Jesus of being a ‘stubborn and rebellious son’ from Deueronomy 21. The punishment of which is death! This means Jesus was seen as hanging out with the wrong sort and doing the wrong sort of things that a good Jewish boy would not be doing.
  4. Jesus was probably accused of being mamzer (illegitemate child).  What this means is that there was sufficient ‘fishiness’ and lowliness concerning Jesus’ birth that his legitemacy was probably called into question.

All this leads me to reflect on the fact that everything that Jesus was accused of was directly related to his mission. He was accused of being a law breaker because he saw that righteousness needed to go in a new direction than it was in his contemporary setting. He was accused of being demon-possessed because he performed great miracles of power. He was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton because he went to parties and hung out with an unsavory crowd. He was accused of being illegitemate because his origens were lowly and his birth was questionable.

This begs the question, what are we, as Christians accused of? One of my professors in college used to tell the story of a time he was teaching an intro course on religion at a secular university. When it got time to teach the segment on Christianity he asked the class to shout out words that they associated with Christianity. The overwhelming response were words that related to ‘judgmental.’ We are most often accused of being judgmental. 

Nowhere is Jesus anywhere close to being accused of being judgmental. In fact, as Bird has pointed out (point 1 above), where Jesus’ all inclusive message of the Kingdom (including forgiveness) conflicted to the current understanding of the Law, the Law had to give way! Could we apply that to our current understanding of morality? I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch. But I digress, my main point is this: Christians today (myself included) are accused of things that Jesus would never be accused of. That says something about us. 

I ask myself this question, when was the last time I was so Kingdom focused, so forgiving that I was accused of not being concerned with the Law (or morality)? What your enemies think about you says something about who you are. I’m afraid that we have not followed Jesus in this matter. It bears some thought.