Friday, January 29, 2016

The fool who won't give up

Today I will cover the 11th and final chapter in Michael Frost's insightful little book 'Jesus the Fool: The Mission of the Unconventional Christ.' The title of this chapter is "Jesus, The Fool Who Won't Give Up." As you may be able to guess, 'loyalty as foolishness' is the emphasis here. Some of the nuggets...

"It takes a fool to live out that dogged, unrelenting loyalty even to those who continually reject them."

"To remain loyal to the ones we love and allow them the freedom to reject that love allows the potential to be made a fool of."

"This is the kind of foolishness we often see in the man called Jesus. He is so loyal, so devoted, so unshakable that it is embarrassing. He just won't give up."


"Interestingly, it has been my experience that those who seem to run from God the fastest are often the ones who feel the most pursued."

"Jesus is like the hound before which Francis Thompson fell (author of 'The Hound of Heaven'). His relentless, dogged, unquenchable love for us is so loyal that invariably he will track us down. By this I don't mean that we have no choice, that faith in Jesus is a foregone conclusion. His love is so devoted that he allows us the choice to reject it. And this is what makes Jesus a fool. When everyone else has deserted us, the Fool remains unshakable."


Nowhere is this loyalty more poignantly presented than in Jesus' anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. After his last meal with his closest compatriots, Jesus, perhaps anxious and fidgety, couldn't sit still. He knew his final hours were approaching. So he took the night air with is disciples down through the Kidron valley to a garden containing olive trees east of where the current Jericho road-bridge lies. It was a favorite retreat of Jesus and his disciples. There in the solitude of the quiet evening, Jesus emotionally fell apart. He disappeared to a darkened corner of the garden with his closest friends - James, his brother John, and Peter - and there he broke down and cried, inviting the prayers of his companions. But it was late and they clearly didn't share their master's sense of apprehension. They fell asleep on him during his darkest moment.

Alone and frightened, lying face down on the ground, Jesus sobbed, "I'm so overwhelmed with sorrow that I could die." Clearly this was a man beside himself with anguish. And here lies the key to understanding the loyalty of the fool called Jesus. It seems to me that it was here in this pretty garden that Jesus' faith was most sorely tested. And he almost cracked! He was filled with fear and uncertainty and for this one moment his resolve was almost shattered.

You might find it distressing to imagine Jesus falling apart at the seams, but for me this is inspirational. If we imagine Jesus to be always perfectly in control, to know all, to see all, to be steely in his resolve and unflinching in his mission, we can never believe that such things as fear or uncertainty were part of his experience. But Gethsemane reminds us that they were. And the fact that they were fills me with courage.

If Jesus was always completely certain of the outcome of his life... then where is there room for faith?... And Gethsemane would not make sense. The events in that garden can only be sensible if there was an element of risk involved. Faith is risk. And at Gethsemane, Jesus showed he was faced with a terrible task -- the offering of his own life.

The fact that he was prepared to, in spite of his fears, go through with his commitment to be sacrificed for our inadequacy makes the cross the supreme symbol of faith. Not only do we place our faith in it, but we celebrate Jesus' faith that drove him to it. Gethsemane is proof that Jesus was undoubtedly foolish.


This reminds me of a story seen recently on television during the telecast of the British sheepdog trials... A shepherd has to instruct his dog to complete a series of maneuvers with a group of three or four sheep. The dog has to round them into a pen or move them across to the other side of a paddock. Each of the dogs is time on efficiency and speed.

During one championship, the winning dog and his shepherd/master appeared on camera to accept the trophy, and the television reporter stuck his microphone in the owner's mouth and asked him about how he felt at this his greatest moment. The characteristically taciturn Yorkshireman responded self-effacingly with nods and grunts. Then the interviewer pointed out that there was a tragic story behind this dog that had just won the British championship and asked the man to tell us about it. The craggy-faced old shepherd broke down as he told the tale.

It turned out that the old man had nursed this dog on his kitchen table for weeks and weeks after it had broken both its legs and had a hip replacement. So you can see how winning the British championship in sheepdog trialing was quite a monumental effort. But the interviewer pressed him further. What had happened to the dog?

And so the dog's owner repeated the story of how he had ordered his dog to sit by the shed until he returned from mending a fence on top of a nearby hill. His dog was so obedient that, once told to stay, he would never budge from that spot. As the shepherd worked on the fence, he heard the dog down by the shed begin to whine and squeal. He wondered what the problem was but went on with his work. Soon, he noticed the dog glancing anxiously behind the shed at something out of the shepherd's sight. The dog was looking longingly at his master, so the old man decided to wander down and see what was happening behind the shed. On his way down, he realized too late that one of his farm hands was driving a tractor out from behind the shed and heading slowly for the dog. Unable to see the animal and unable to hear the shepherd's screams, the farm worker drove right over the dog, crushing his hind legs and hips.

Tears were streaming down his lined face as the Yorkshireman retold his sad story. Because the dog had been ordered to stay, he remained in place even if that meant allowing a tractor to crush him to death. In return for the dog's remarkable loyalty, the owner could not bear to have him put down. And so he nursed him on his own kitchen table.

"Jesus allowed this world to crush him to death out of loyalty to God and to his people. Here is the Fool at his most powerful."


"If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)


Well, this was a very good read. Not good like I usually like my books - short chapters and with pages I can turn (as opposed to ebook) - but it was good in that it was simply about Jesus. There were no "church" ideas, or discipleship processes, it was Jesus. Just Jesus. Very refreshing. I'm glad I downloaded it.