March 24, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 23:1-5 (NRSV)
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.” Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.” But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”
The opponents of Jesus brought accusations against him to Pontius Pilate, in the hope that he would be executed. Though several of their claims against Jesus were exaggerated or false, one was accurate. Jesus did indeed “stir up the people” from Galilee, where Jesus began his ministry, to Jerusalem, where it was soon to end. The Jesus who stirs things up in a major way, therefore, is rather like a big giant spoon. Will we allow Jesus to stir us up, to challenge our complacencies and call us to a whole new way of living?
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
A number of years ago I was speaking at a Christian conference in Austin, Texas. One of the keynote speakers was a man who was well known for making big, bold, brash statements. He really enjoyed getting a rise out of his audience and whipping up controversy. In his conference talk, he blasted Christians for being too committed to rationality. We need to use more stories, images, and metaphors. He kept hammering away on the need for creative metaphors that will carry our meaning into the world. Predictably, folks in the crowd were pretty riled up after he finished.
Back at my hotel, guess who joined me in the elevator. That’s right, the speaker I had just heard. Though we didn’t know each other, I said to him, “You are a big giant spoon.” He looked puzzled, then unhappy, as if I were insulting him. “What do you mean?” he asked gruffly. I repeated my statement, “You are a big giant spoon.” Again, he said, “What are you trying to tell me?” I realized I was going to have to explain, lest I make this man my lifelong opponent. “You are a big giant spoon,” I said, “in that you do a great job stirring the pot. The talk you just gave on metaphors was a perfect example of you being a giant spoon.” As we exited the elevator, he looked at me quizzically, realizing that I had been trying to do exactly what he had urged so passionately, using an engaging metaphor. He may also have been a bit embarrassed that he didn’t get it until I offered a prosaic explanation. As he walked away he said, “Okay, then. Well, thanks, I guess.” Honestly, I thought he’d love being called a big giant spoon. Oh well.
Had the leaders in Jerusalem heard that man’s talk on metaphors, they might have called Jesus a big giant spoon. And, actually, that would have been a fair description. Many of their accusations against Jesus were not accurate, such as that Jesus had forbidden people to pay taxes to the emperor. And Jesus had never actually said he was the king in the sense of a political competitor to Caesar. But it was fair to say that he “stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place” (Luke 23:5).
How did Jesus stir up the people? Certainly, his ability to do miracles, especially to heal people, awakened popular curiosity and drew the crowds. But it was Jesus’s message that seemed to have the most impact. When Jesus was teaching in the temple in Luke 19, for example, the leaders were trying to find a way to kill him “but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard” (Luke 19:47-48). The religious leaders were, in fact, “afraid of the people” because Jesus had stirred them up so much (Luke 22:2). So, when making their accusations to Pontius Pilate, the authorities could have said, metaphorically, Jesus is a great big spoon.
If we were to take seriously the teaching and example of Jesus, I suggest he’d be a great big spoon today. Through his faithful disciples he would stir things up, that’s for sure. He’d unsettle our own personal complacency and comfort, calling us to imitate his sacrificial service and even to love our enemies. Jesus would stir up things in our society with his proclamation of God’s kingdom, mercy, love, and justice (see, for example, Luke 4:16-30). Jesus would also stir up the church, calling us to care less about our personal preferences and privilege and more about serving “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) and reaching out with grace to the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7).
During Lent, we have the opportunity to ask the Lord if he’d like to stir up something in us. Yes, Jesus is the one who offers peace. But that doesn’t mean we will always feel comfortable around him. The real Jesus will expand our horizons, challenge our biases, disrupt our comfortable assumptions, and call us into his counter-cultural kingdom. He will stir up within us new compassion for the hurting and zeal for his holiness. So, if you’ll allow for the metaphor, will you let Jesus be a big giant spoon in your life?
Has Jesus stirred anything up in your life recently? If so, what happened? If not, why not?
Do you think that perhaps you have become overly comfortable with Jesus? If so, what can you do to engage with Jesus in a new and deeper way?
Is there any context in your life in which you feel led, as a disciple of Jesus, to stir things up? If so, where is this and what do you feel called to do?
It would be easy to say, “Go stir things up somewhere.” And perhaps you should. But it may be that, first of all, you need to give Jesus the freedom to stir things up in your life. Why don’t you take some time to talk with him about this?
Lord Jesus, I trust that you’re not offended when I call you a big giant spoon. You get the metaphor. Maybe you even like it. The religious leaders and the Romans wouldn’t have liked it, that’s for sure. You were a threat to the status quo, to the oppressive peace and order of Rome and its allies. They didn’t like how you stirred things up. Yet that didn’t stop you, until, of course, they killed you. But after that you really stirred things up!
You know, Lord, that I am not one to be drawn to disruption. I like things that are stable and safe, with maybe just a tiny bit of adventure. But I do want you to have the freedom to do in me anything you desire. So I invite you, Lord, to stir things up in me. I know you’ll do this with mercy and wisdom. I know you want the best for me. So I surrender to you my love of comfort and familiarity. Do in me – and then through me – what you will. Not my will, but your will be done. Amen.
P.S. from Mark
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Passion of Jesus (Luke 22:47-24:53)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.