The Outlaw

What kept my faith alive in High School and college was embracing a vision of Jesus as a rule-breaking revolutionary and rebel. I loved Larry Norman's song "Outlaw," which he wrote to appeal to the hippies during the 60s and 70s. That song captured by youthful spirituality. 

But as I've grow up and digested a lot of Biblical and theological scholarship, my view of Jesus has "matured" a bit. I don't reflexively read Jesus as a rebel anymore. 

And yet, still doing my year-long Bible reading plan of reading through the Gospel of John over and over each month, I can't help but find myself seeing that outlaw show up.

Consider the healing of the blind man in John 9. 

Jesus heals the man by spitting, making mud, and then applying it to the man's eyes. All this, we can assume, was unnecessary. So why did Jesus do it? 

Well, as the story unfolds the making of mud was considered a violation of the Sabbath laws. Jesus engaged in work in making the mud. This infraction becomes a huge problem. Sign and sin have been conflated, creating a snarl of a discernment question. How can a sinner perform such a sign? Ultimately, the Pharisees can't see the sign for the sin, but the (formerly) blind man is able to. 

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
Here's my point. I don't know how you can read this text without coming to the conclusion that Jesus intentionally picks this fight. He throws a monkey wrench into the machine. Jesus creates the provocation by fusing a Sabbath violation with a healing. In effect, Jesus turns the blind man into a heat-seeking missile. And things soon blow up. 

This is the exact sort of thing that used to thrill me about Jesus. Jesus' willful, intentional, considered, planned, and provocative violations of social and religious norms and expectations. 

The outlaw. He still thrills me.

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