There are many people who are big fans of Jesus that fall just a little short of understanding him. I’ve spoken before of Hippie Jesus, Smiley Jesus, Mr. Rogers type Jesus, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. There have been a gazillion (pretty sure that’s the actual number) books on the “historical” Jesus. There’s now lots of those, too. I’m talking about people that have read or listened to things Jesus said and consider him to be a great guy. I’m talking about people who know that Jesus loved everybody, talked about peace, refused to stone the woman caught in adultery, fed the 5,000 and raised Lazarus. Yet at the same time those people ignore his command to “take up the cross” and follow. They almost get Jesus.
When reading the Gospels, it might seem that Jesus almost had a disrespect for the Sabbath. Jesus often appears to have a disrespect for rules and authority figures in general, but lets stick to a specific example. When criticized for breaking the Sabbath, Jesus tells the religious leaders of his time that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Is Jesus tossing out the Old Testament Sabbath commandments? No, but that’s all some people see. They see a guy that eats without washing his hands, picks grain on the Sabbath day, heals on that day, and even has disciples that do not fast. But Jesus is not ignoring the Law; he kept the Law perfectly. The Pharisees complaint is about Jesus breaking the rules; not God’s law, but man’s rules. Jesus knows that God’s commandment is to keep the Sabbath holy. The people I refer to as “almost getting Jesus” admire his attitude toward authority, but might also fail to keep the Sabbath holy as Jesus did. He’s not throwing out all the rules. He is highly critical of a system that has engineered legalism in place of righteousness. He tells the Pharisees they have kept the letter of the law, not the spirit of the Law. In all of their law keeping, they missed God. If one is a big fan of Jesus but still misses God, guess what? You missed God.
The rich young ruler (or young man) almost got Jesus. He stood face to face with the coming Kingdom of God, and yet walked away very sad. Judas Iscariot almost got Jesus. He listened to the same teachings and witnessed the same miracles as the rest of the disciples for 3 1/2 years, yet Jesus said of the one who would betray him it would better that such a man were never born. Today there are plenty of people who think Jesus was a great guy, a wise teacher, a prophet, a very spiritual person and a host of other descriptions. But if we miss that Jesus is “God with us” you end up with a lesser than Jesus version of Jesus.