Bloody Jesus

A few nights ago I was talking with my incredibly smart and beautiful wife about the violence of God in Scripture and how we can interpret both in light of Jesus Christ, and we realized that in some ways, Christianity has fallen into the same trap that Judaism fell into so many years ago.

bloody Jesus bibleBefore Jesus came (and in fact, even today) when Jewish people read their Hebrew Scriptures and saw a violent God doing violent things, they projected this onto their expectations for what the Messiah would be and do when He finally came. They saw a violent God, and so were looking for a violent Messiah. They wanted a Messiah who would throw off Roman rule, would slay the enemies, kill the wicked, and banish all the unrighteous into eternal pits of darkness and gloom.

This was partly why the Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He did not fit the bill! He did not live up to their expectations. He did not match what they read in the Bible. He did not fulfill the expectations, promises, and prophecies of what the Messiah would do when He came. And in fact, on numerous occasions, Jesus flat-out told them that the reason He was not doing these things is because they had misread and misinterpreted their Scriptures.

Hmmm…. now take those two paragraphs and substitute in what Christians think about the second coming of Jesus….

By an amazing twist of hermeneutical skill, we Christians have learned to nod our heads at both Jewish and Christian interpretations of Scripture.

We say, “The Jewish interpretation and understanding of God was correct. They just got the timing all wrong. God is violent and bloody, and so is the Messiah. But Jesus didn’t come the first time to kill all the sinners; He will do that when He comes again. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Let the bloodbath begin!”

We look at the Bible, and just as our Jewish predecessors did, see a violent God doing violent things, and we project this onto what we think Jesus is supposed to be like. Some of us look forward with great eagerness and expectation for when Jesus will come again to throw off the evil governments and set up His own righteous rule, but not before He slays our enemies, kills the wicked, bathes the world in bloodshed, burns away all those who did not follow Him, and banishes the unrighteous into pits of never-ending fire to suffer and burn for all eternity.

I wonder… Is it possible that Jesus sees this and shakes His head at us just as He did with the Jewish religious leaders? Could He be saying to us what He told His disciples during the Last Supper? “Have I been with you for so long and you still have not seen the Father? God is not like that and neither am I! I came to reveal the Father to you! If you have seen Me, You have seen the Father also.”

One of the failures of the Jewish religious leaders was that they were looking for a bloody Messiah who would slay the wicked.

Could it be that one of our failures as Christians is that we are looking for a bloody Messiah who will slay the wicked?

Does it not seem more likely that the bloodstains on the robes and hands of Jesus are not the spilled blood of His foes, but rather His own blood spilled for them?

God of the Old Testament and JesusThis post is part of my ongoing series on how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament. Specifically, I am trying to answer this question:

How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?

To see what I am arguing so far, click here.

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  1. Sam says

    We humans seem have a fascination with war, battle, bloodshed, violence and killing our enemies, don’t we? Some of us feel compelled to offer an explanation as to why we are this way. – Of course, our god not only approves it, but our god is this way. We’re only modeling ourselves after our god. But did you know – not only is our god this way, not only has our god been the example, but our god has also told us to destroy our enemies. Our holy book confirms this.

    There is the small problem that when our god showed up in person, in flesh, and walked among us, he was not this way. Obviously that was a fluke. He’s really still a violent god. Any day now he’s going to show up and kill people again. You know, he’s going to kill those people we don’t like – home-O-sex-you-alls, deviants, communists, perverts, Muslims, Democrats and you-name-it.

    Obviously I don’t buy this take on the god I know, the Jesus I know. I don’t get that from the Bible. I don’t know a god who is looking over my shoulder trying to see every screw-up I do. If he’s looking for screw-ups, we’re all screw-ups. Every one of us. He should have wiped the earth clean of us thousands of years ago.

    I know the Jesus of Grace, the lover of my soul, the lover of all us screw-ups. He has no need to kill us. We’re doing a very good job of doing that ourselves. He loves us and showed us how to love each other. But we’ve kinda missed that message. We’d rather kill each other. So we pretend that’s the example god gave us. Yeah, right.

    • says

      Fascination is right! Infatuation maybe, or even addiction. Just look at pretty much every single movie! And I’ll be honest, I like watching war movies!

      But you are absolutely right about Jesus! He was not a fluke, not a mistake, and was not hiding something from us about the violent streak in God.

      It is tragic that we have made God violent to help justify our own violence.

  2. Juan Carlos Torres says

    Great post, Jeremy.

    QUESTION: what scriptures definitively convince you there is yet a second coming? I hear/read a lot of people who say most if not all of the usual scriptures on the subject are actually about Jesus coming in judgement of jerusalem in 70 ad.

    • says

      Whoa! Now there is an interesting question! Having been trained and taught in dispensational schools, and preaching/teaching that way for most of my ministerial life, I have a whole parade of passages going through my head…. but as I have been questioning some of what I was taught in these schools (and which I taught the people in my churches), I am beginning to wonder what else might be…. well…. able to be challenged.

      I do think Jesus is returning physically again…. I am just not sure of all the details…

  3. says

    This reminds me a bit of what John and James said…

    And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? (Luke 9:54)

    I believe I’ve heard a few Christians talk that way.

  4. m. b. says

    O.K., now you’re getting “warmer”! But NOT cuz you’re getting closer to “eternal hellfire”… not that you were worried. :)

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