John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

A Stressed-Out Jesus

We don't typically think of Jesus getting stressed out -- at least I don't. The movies and pictures of Jesus I grew up with always showed Jesus calm and serene. Or was it something else?

Jesus was always sort of staring off into the distance, his unfocused eyes at half-mast, lost in thought, not a care in the world, speaking in hushed, even tones. Frankly (and I know this is offensive but it's true) he looked a little stoned. Hippie Jesus wandering the countryside with his band of merry men -- floating a little bit off the ground as he went.

Honestly, this is not a Jesus I can relate to. If that Jesus asked me to follow him, I'm not sure I would. I'd want to know we were going to do more than just sit around and eat Doritos.

So, while pondering the concept of stress, I came across this verse that really stands in stark contrast to the Jesus meek and mild I was raised with. Jesus says, "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!" (Luke 12:49-50).

Jesus actually says, "I'm stressed out!"

From the context, we can figure out that he's talking about bringing the fire of judgment on the earth, but he has to endure the baptism that is his betrayal and crucifixion first. When Jesus thinks about everything he has to endure, he says causes him distress. The word in Greek means to be surrounded by an enemy, to be pulled in different directions or to be pressed down upon by some external force.

I don't know about you, but this stressed-out Jesus is way more compelling to me. When he says, "Follow me!" I'm more likely to oblige.

Anyone who admits to being at the end of their rope but insists that they have figured a way out from under the pressure without punching a hole in the wall or saying something they regret or bellying up to the bar during happy hour -- that guy's selling something I need.

How about you? Does a stressed-out Jesus appeal to you more than the even-tempered and sedate(d) figure who walks through the movies we watch every Easter? How is that verse above different from the way you've viewed Jesus in the past?