By Christopher Breen, MDiv.
Jesus was a troublemaker. This is not a new revelation, nor is it the last time you will probably read that about Him.
However, it does not diminish the fact that Jesus was indeed a troublemaker.
Jesus' entire crew had a bad reputation around the neighborhood. There were those that believed in Him and wanted to be around Him at all times, and there were those who did not. Moreover there were those that wanted Him to quiet down and stop 'rocking the boat'. Pharisees are often depicted as the group that was mainly up for challenging Jesus during His ministry on earth.
The biblical author Matthew tells us of a time when the Pharisees wanted to see if they could snag Jesus and delegitimize his whole crew. It turned out to be one of the most important teachings of Jesus' ministry:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Now, this may not seem completely earth-shattering. Perhaps you might be asking yourself, is his definition of 'troublemaker' different from mine?
The reason why this was such an important part of Jesus' teachings that He left us, is that it removes power from those who had (and continue to) claim it.
The time between when Moses died, and Jesus arrives many things had changed. Humanity had focused on the industrialization of religion. Practice was now centered around pleasing those few in power, and started to drift from the central purpose of living one's life in relationship with God.
Jesus' words here are so important because in just a few sentances He demolishes this entire societal structure that had kept the Pharisees in power for a long time.
And the Pharisees knew it.
If religion became less about rules and regulations, practices and ritual, then the Pharisees would lose power. If God's commandments were now only to focus on building that relationship with God, and loving your fellow human with all your heart, then the industrial religious system would begin to suffer. No longer would communities focus on pleasing the Pharisees in order to gain favor with God, but rather, all they had to do was focus on their own individual relationship with The Creator.
Think about your own community of faith. Do the leaders encourage strict rule following, or do they preach strict devotion to God. Does your faith community find ways to use religion to hate The Other, or do they find ways in which to love those as themselves.
In other words, does your community of faith follow the troublemaker?