If you haven’t heard of or seen “Stuff Christians Like”, check on it because Jon Acuff is usually hilarious, sometimes too snarky, but definitely observant when it comes to Christians’ ridiculous/goofy quirks. One in particular is the Jesus Juke, which Jon says is:
Like a football player juking you at the last second and going a different direction, the Jesus Juke is when someone takes what is clearly a joke filled conversation and completely reverses direction into something serious and holy.
…I once tweeted about going to see Conan O’Brien live and how big the crowd was. Someone wrote back, “If we held a concert for Jesus and gave away free tickets, no one would come.”
So, turning the light-hearted into a Christian “Debbie Downer” moment. If you’re familiar, do you notice some feelings that it produces in you, like guilt/shame when you’re being juked, or religious pride/self-satisfaction when you’re juking others? Not cool.
But on the other hand, there are those times when I need a little juking, or something. Sometimes I do need to be held accountable, or I feel the desire to hold those I love accountable. How do we do it without being a self-righteous juke-jerk? How do we change direction, even abruptly, without beating up on ourselves or others? The only way I see is this: leave the juking to Jesus.
For one, that is something he does often and well. Jesus knew (and knows) how to flip the script on people, to shake up assumptions, without inflicting damage on us. Continuing in Mark (2:1-11) there is a stark example. We’ve followed Jesus in Galilee, and the explosion of miraculous deeds he’s been doing — defeating evil and healing illness. Naturally, Jesus is now quite popular; but here in this crowded house, I think the story gets suddenly waaay deeper.
Because, Jesus seems really pleased by the actions and faith of the paralyzed man and his buddies who tear through the roof to see him. But the scene doesn’t play out like usual. Jesus doesn’t say, “That’s good faith you have there, and now (*SHAZAM*) your friend will walk again.” He turns to the paralyzed one on the mat, saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Juked their faces off.
I wonder if there was awkward or intent silence. “What did he say?” Think about their different reactions. I bet somebody there was disappointed — the paralyzed man, his buddies, or others — because they were expectinghealing. Somebody heard Jesus say, “your sins are forgiven” and was truly let down. If you’re reading this passage for the first time, with curiosity or even with great hope about Jesus, wondering if he might be as special as all these Christians make out, you might currently feel let down a little too.
You might say something like, “Here we go, Jesus starting in on the religious talk, bringing up an antiquated, superstitious idea like ‘sin’.” As Americans in general we seem to shy away from some tradition, the sin and hell business, in favor of accentuating the positive. We see ourselves in a morally-decent light; we do our best and don’t cause too terrible much harm; what faults we have are usually linked to something in our environment, our experience, or our biology. Agreed, a little?
Well, Jesus is encroaching on that; with this one statement, he’s made it so that we can’t use him for just some wise sayings or the “golden rule”. To take him at his own word here, and to give him any credibility at all, we’ll have to admit what he’s taking for granted about us: that we’re far from perfect and need to be forgiven. And he implies that he specifically is the one to do the forgiving. Whatever expectations are brought to Jesus in Mark 2, back then or even today, he jukes things good.
There were other feelings present in the room that day, too. We know that the Jewish people at the time were instead very familiar with their own sinfulness. Moses’ Law, and especially the human exaggeration of the Law, made faith something that was a terrible burden. In actuality, God had given the people huge ways to atone for sin, a whole system of sacrifice and redemption; but the ones in charge downplayed God’s grace and played-up human guilt. Personal sin was a stout, unshakable reality. So, when Jesus says what he says about forgiveness, the religious leaders are deeply disturbed. This forgiveness came too easy; and who is this Jesus, a man, who claims such authority and puts himself at God’s level?
But most importantly, on the flip side, I bet somebody there heard these words and wondered, “Can it be? Can Jesus do that? …could he, for me?”
In the context of their world, THAT was a far larger step of faith than breaking through a roof in search of physical healing. But that they might all know his authority, Jesus still ordered the man to walk. What a juke it all was. A paralyzed man walking became the second most powerful deed of the day. Because he was also now a forgiven child of God. Handling the other-than-expected is hard. Admitting our imperfection is harder, and deeply personal. But with Jesus healing/forgiveness is just as personal. Be juked.