Jesus rarely made things easy.
He forced upon his hearers choices they would rather have avoided. When he found that a kind of celebrity had attached itself to him, he faced down the crowds with a kind of rhetorical fury that must have been only partially offset by the love in his voice.
The gushing of the masses appears to have represented a kind of threat. In the face of it, he said the damnedest things.
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:25–26 ESV)
Hadn’t the God of the Hebrews, whom Jesus addressed as his beloved Father, invested memorable energy in instructing his people that a society that does not honor father and mother will soon cherish no one at all?
One of Jesus’ most crazy-making quirks was the insistence that—in the face of his person and his mission—everything else pales in comparison. Traditional values? For what? Messiah is here.
Charitable conduct? Why? The poor are already flocking to him, sensing a reality in Jesus that it would take nearly everyone else longer to discern. Many never would.
The love of a family, source of humankind’s deepest joys and the last bulwark against chaos?
Hate them, Jesus says, at least if you must compare that blood network with how I am asking you to love me beyond everything else.
No wonder they killed him.
As a twentieth-century sage would insist, he was either a madman. A narcissist beyond bearing. Or Yahweh’s own son.