Something happened to me while I was visiting the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain in 2003 that caused me to think more seriously about Jesus’ demands. Serving in the United States Navy, I was looking for a Christian church but could find only Islamic mosques. I decided to enter a mosque and was delighted to meet an English–speaking Imam in the first place I visited. This Muslim minister and I began conversing about religion.
“I believe that Jesus was a great prophet,” he said generously. He also added the words “blessed be his name” after saying the name Jesus and continuing to do so for our entire one-hour conversation.
“Yes,” I responded. “Jesus was a great prophet, but wasn’t He more than that?”
“You mean the Son of God, don’t you?” my new friend answered quickly.
“Exactly,” I said.
“Well,” the Imam whispered reluctantly, “he may have been a wonderful teacher, but certainly not a god.”
“I think we have a problem,” I retorted. “You see, Jesus claimed to be God. He said to His enemies, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58), and they sought to kill Him for blasphemy. So, you can’t have Him a great teacher, but not God, for that would make Him either a liar or insane.”
The Imam smiled and conceded, “Yes, I guess that is a problem.”
I changed the subject, and we discussed different things that Muslims and Christians have in common. We talked about how we trace our spiritual heritage back to Father Abraham, with Christians going through Isaac and Muslims through Ishmael. He reminded me of our mutual reverence for Old Testament patriarchs and prophets. But despite our friendly exchange, we could not agree on the deity of Jesus.
Although the Christian faith has provided many solutions to challenging problems; nevertheless, Jesus remains a problem to many people. At His birth, He caused a problem for an innkeeper who, at first, had no room for Christ in his inn (Luke 2:7). Later, King Herod was so threatened by Jesus’ existence that the monarch commanded that babies under two years of age be killed (Matthew 2:16). He would later so disturb the religious leaders because of His miracle-working power that they would plot to kill Him (Matthew 26:1–5). Jesus anticipated such opposition, declaring, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). And what kind of sword did He bring? He brought a sword that disturbs our arrogance, comfort, and relationships.
Jesus disturbs our arrogance. When a Pharisee prayed pompously in the Temple (Luke 18), bragging to God about his accomplishment, Jesus said he prayed to himself. But the despised tax collector in the same story, who prayed with humility, received Christ’s approval. Jesus even challenged His disciples to be willing to wash one another’s feet (John 13) and become like children to prepare to enter His kingdom (Matthew 18:3). Yes, He disturbs our arrogance.
He disturbs our comfort. Once a man came to Him and said, “I’m ready to follow You wherever You go.”
But Jesus responded, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). Again, in Luke 18:22, He challenged a rich, young ruler, “Sell all that thou hast . . . and . . . follow me.” It so disturbed the young ruler’s comfort zone that he went away sorrowfully. In Revelation 3:17, Jesus spoke to the church in the city of Laodicea and declared, “Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, . . . knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Yes, He disturbs our comfort.
Jesus predicted that His presence would disturb relationships. Once, He was working so hard that His mother and other relatives went to get Him. Jesus was teaching, and someone informed Him that “his mother and brethren” desired to speak with Him.
Jesus responded by saying, “Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?” Pointing to the listening congregation, He said, “These are my mother, brothers, and sisters, those who do the will of my Father in heaven” (see Matthew 12:46–50). He also said that a person’s foes would come from his or her own household (Matthew 10:36). Serving Him often brings divisions, causing more problems than solutions. Yes, He disturbs our relationships.
Jesus—The Only Solution
My discussion with a Bahrain Imam prompted me to reflect on Jesus’ demands, imperatives we must embrace if we believe His claims about Himself and His deity. While His demands will disturb our arrogance, comfort, and relationships, they will lead us to value people, celebrate the miraculous, and accentuate the spiritual. When we meet Jesus on His terms, He will be the solution and not the problem.