• Josh Phillips

The Counter-Intuitive Nature of Jesus- Part Two: The Mystery in His Ministry

Jesus had this weird way of saying things that if we are honest, we might think "Did he just say that?"



In part one of this blog series I introduced this idea of Jesus challenging our assumptions about Him through His birth. These challenges were not limited of course to his birth but continued on into his ministry. I want to go a little further with this and examine more of these instances in the life and ministry of Jesus.


Cruise Games


I’ve never been confused for someone with an affinity for travel but I will not hesitate to ride the open seas on a nice cruise ship. One unique feature I’ve noticed on a cruise ship is a certain game for married couples that strongly resembles the television classic “The Newlywed Game.” Both spouses are asked the same question separately and their responses are often quite different when compared. The husband says this, the wife says that, and everyone is humored by the contrast in their responses.


I’m reminded of this at times when I read certain passages of Jesus responding to people in the Gospels. As the passage unfolds and Jesus is about to respond we begin to have an idea of where this might be headed. However, it seems to follow as “we think this” but “Jesus says that.” A stark contrariety of views much like the happy couples competing aboard the ship. Fortunately for us we seldom have a crowd of strangers witnessing our misguided assumptions.


Wait, what?


I think it’s easy to look at the evangelist who has the altar flooded with people after their sermon as someone with a profound closeness to God. It’s easy to see that incredibly gifted singer lead masses of people into the presence of God as someone who truly knows God. We see the amazing gifting in people and we simply assume their relationship with God. I know I did.


The immediate question that comes to mind would be “Does God really impart gifts of prophecy and work miracles through those he doesn’t even call His own?”

In Matthew 7:21 during “The Sermon on the Mount” Jesus says “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”This is a bit unexpected for most self-professing Christians. The immediate question that comes to mind would be “Does God really impart gifts of prophecy and work miracles through those he doesn’t even call His own?” This seems to go against our logic and our expectations of Jesus. But this isn’t the only occurrence.


Who is the greatest?


If I had never read the Gospels and had only a limited understanding of Jesus and the Bible, I might have a different answer for the disciples in Matthew 18. Jesus is asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Given this scenario, wouldn’t it be perfectly reasonable to assume that some great man of God like Abraham, Moses, or David would fit this role. Or how about the disciples? After all, they walked this earth with Him and performed amazing miracles alongside Him. But this is not the case. Jesus calls over a child and says “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” This has to be a bit perplexing. It would be like asking a CEO of a business “Who is the most important person in the company?” and the CEO responding with “Chuck over in the mailroom.” I really wonder what the disciples were thinking at that moment. This wasn't an isolated incident however.


Jesus sees something we don’t and it often seems to defy our own logic.

Take into account His selection of the twelve disciples. Jesus was about to engage the world like nobody had ever seen and perform some of the most glorious acts of love and wonder. A sensible approach would have been to visit the synagogues to survey and assess the most pious and devout priests who could embark on such a dignified mission. But again, this is not the case. He chooses fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and even one that would betray Him. This type of selection process would never be modeled by any success-driven entity today. Jesus sees something we don’t and it often seems to defy our own logic.


I want to keep running with this very idea. Why does Jesus continue to foil our expectations throughout the Gospels? What does this say about Him but also, what does it say about us? I hope you will continue to join me in part 3 of this series as look at the death of Jesus and in my opinion, see the pinnacle of the counter-intuitive nature of Jesus on full display.


Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels