Taking Jesus as He Is

Reading Mark 4:36-40 the other day, I had one of those “never-saw-that-before” moments. At the end of a long day of teaching, Jesus is ready to push off to the other side of the lake. And then it comes (this fresh line… or at least fresh to me): 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.

The disciples took Jesus “just as he was.”

What does that mean? They took Jesus in his tired condition? Or, they took Jesus… landlubber that he was, without a life preserver? No real clues to what it means. The commentaries don’t really help either. We’re left guessing.

For my part, I am learning what it is to “take Jesus as He is.”

Here, I will admit to the assortment of roles that I have assigned to Him over time. Caddy. Lackey. Cosmic shopkeeper – with a home delivery service. Garbage collector. Life & fire insurance provider. Just to name a few.

To be sure, he functions to some degree in each of these roles. That’s part of the problem, in fact. He does represent and embody the God who carries our loads, who hears and answers our prayers, who forgives and “save” us,…

Others have been honest enough to comfort me (not sure if that’s the right term or not)… comfort or assure me that I am not alone in this idolization.
Looking around, in fact, I see other functions and identities into which Jesus has been conscripted – functions and identities that I have resisted… at least, so far. (Admittedly, I am tempted to itemize and describe these other Jesuses. But, doing so, would take me too far afield of my real focus here.)

“Detachment”: that’s the word that some teachers call this concept of taking Jesus (and God and others and life) as they are – dropping pretenses of being in control and wanting to domesticate life and living. In many respects, it has us rejecting… or counteracting a dynamic that goes all the way back to the Garden: refusing to take forbidden fruit, trusting that we don’t need to take things into our own hands, believing that life is more – much more – than the presumption of knowledge.

“Taking Jesus as he is,” after all, is admitting that he (along with the rest of us) is a mystery. And taking Him as He is  – indeed, ourselves and others and life as they are: these mark our settling down into the flow and unfolding of life as it is. “Taking this world as it is and not as I would have it”: that’s the way Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer puts it.

As the Markan passage before us unfolds, the boat Jesus and company have left in is caught up in a terrible storm – with Jesus soundly asleep in the bow. As panicked disciples wake him up (so that he can save the day, stilling the storm), I, myself, am left wondering: was Jesus the man that exhausted… or was Christ the God feigning sleep (to see how the disciples would respond)?

Truth is, I’ll never know – at least this side of Heaven. And that’s okay – or it’s becoming “more okay.”

It’s part of taking Jesus as He is.


Only came across this quote from Thomas Merton — the day after I made this post.  Seems too fitting and appropriate not to share:


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