As I watched a group of motorcyclists riding down Highway 65 a while back, I was reminded of a little pamphlet I had picked up at one of those small town community-wide celebrations. It made the point that if Jesus of Nazareth were here today, in the flesh, he probably would be riding beside those folks on his big V-Twin roadster. And, according to most of the written evidence we have on his life, the pamphlet was probably right.
The Nazarene apparently walked this earth with a deep-seated dislike for the establishment -- those people and governments and leaders lovingly referred to by my daughter as "The Man." He seems to have had an especially bad taste in his mouth when it came to the established religious circles and practices of his day. He was rebellious in the eyes of Jewish leaders like the Pharisees and Sadducees, and butted heads with the Romans as well. He fought against the lofty and sided with the downtrodden, displaced and disenfranchised of society.
The little pamphlet I referred to earlier was published and copyrighted by the Christian Motorcycle Association U.S.A. It speaks directly to "bikers" when it states ... "He was a lot like you and me. The government didn't like him. The church thought he was weird. What friends he had denied him. He was persecuted by hypocrites. He hung around people like you and me, not the goody-two-shoes Pharisees."
Not that he would have been a racist or a hater. He wouldn't have been anti-Semitic, or a white supremacist, or something of that nature. On the contrary, he was the one trying to make peace between all nations, nationalities, colors and cultures. In fact, I seriously doubt he would have been in favor of the white man's treatment of the indigenous peoples of this continent ... but that's an entirely different column.
Suffice it to say that in the eyes of those who were in leadership during a time when the "church" was inextricably tied to the "state," he was an outlaw. When the church wanted to stop him, they went to the state for help. When the state wanted him banished, they went to the church.
I think we might do well to even begin to question those things that Jesus questioned ... to denounce those things he denounced ... But -- then again ...
Songwriter Sonny Throckmorton once wrote ... "I could tell the first time that I saw him, he was nothing but the troublemaking kind ... He just roamed from town to town, stirring up the young folks, till they had nothing but rebellion on their minds ... They arrested him last week and found him guilty ... They sentenced him to die, but that's no great loss ... Tomorrow they will take him to a place called Calvary, and they'll hang that troublemaker to the cross."
I tend to believe that heartfelt rebellion that does not hurt others is healthy. It's good to ask "Why?" from time to time and then to take a stand to insure the question is taken seriously and, hopefully, answered.
When Peter and John, those famous followers of the Nazarene, were told to cease preaching or they would be arrested and thrown into jail, their rebellion came spilling out in a very understandable way.
"Hey -- you do what you have to do," they said. "But we can't do anything but preach Jesus!"
Our nation's founding fathers - as well as men like Martin Luther, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Leonard Peltier (to name a few) - all stood firm for what they believed. They shook their fists against that which -- in their eyes -- was not right. And they suffered for their beliefs - as rebels often do.
True rebellion -- that which takes a stand against injustice and stands for what is right - is radical and world changing. I think we could use a little more of that kind of rebellion in our world today, and in the church as well.
Yep ... I'm guessing that if he were here today, Jesus would probably be cruising down the highway on a big ol' V-Twin road bike while shaking his fist at "The Man."