Did Jesus roll his eyes?

George Carlin has a line: ““Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

I know, I know. It’s a little bit mean, but only in exact proportion to how true it is.

Time after time in the conversations of Jesus that are recorded, there are just the barest hints that such and such a statement just must have been delivered with eyes rolling, suppressed grins and barely-restrained belly laughs.

It is said that Jesus “knew what was in” people. In which case he surely knew the blind foolishness with which most of us make our decisions.

You see moments like these surfacing in Acts 1 when the disciples turn hopefully to the resurrected Jesus and say “So are you going to restore Israel now?” Or after those powerful statements of non-violence and cheek-turning, and “Love one another” and “Pray for your enemies” they ask him to bomb the village that wouldn’t receive them. Or when they attempt to shut up some outsider using the name of Jesus or when they ask who’s the most important among them or they misconstrue his statement about the shifting tide of the times to tell him “WE’ve got swords ready.” To which he replies “Enough already! And –on another occasion he groans “How long do I have to put up with these people?”

He’s rolling his eyes.

There’s also a group of stories where he intentionally highlights human stupidity, much as George Carlin was doing. He’s drawing attention to something, not to mock it or belittle specific people, but to invent ludicrous pieces of stupidity so that his listeners can laugh at the fabricated situation (and thus avoid the scary self-recognition!).

For example, he describes someone building their sea-view skyscraper right on the beach. Who’d do that? Only someone stupid (Matthew 7:26,27). And yet we build our lives on the uncertain foundations of man’s ideas, rather than God’s. We regularly drive past a new housing estate that was constructed on a river’s banks. The locals looked askance at the location, shook their heads: Everyone knows the land is unstable there and the river shifts in its course. A year or so later they had to demolish the whole lot.

Stupid, stupid.

Jesus spoke of a rich man, rubbing his hands with the prospect of more money, tearing down his existing property to make it even grander. “Take it easy! Eat, drink and be merry.” He thought so much of the present that he forgot about the future. He died that  night with no “treasure laid up in heaven” (Luke 12:16-21). We have some friends who put all their savings and energies into developing a huge house for them and their five children. But it took so much and so long that the children are now up and grown and gone and the mansion remains unfinished.

Jesus told of someone throwing the Party of the Year but all his fancy-pants guests made up any old excuse to get out of coming. The first man begged off with the excuse that he had purchased a piece of ground. Who goes to examine his property after the deal is closed and in the darkness? The second man begged off, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m going to try them.”  But who waits till after buying animals to try them out? The third man excused himself because he had just married. No wife becomes boss so soon after marriage! At any rate, Jesus used these excuses to show on what flimsy grounds men reject God’s invitation to salvation (Luke 14:16-24).

We are just normally average stupid, but sometimes, even more.

Jesus told a story of someone who built a “tower” but didn’t plan it properly and was unable to finish it. The result was just the foundation, the rest uncompleted, so that people began “to poke fun at him”. He gave this parable to reinforce the necessity of counting the cost before rushing into discipleship (Luke 14:27-39).

Even those one-liners such as “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24) –even here we can detect a slight rolling of the eyes. Now scholars have fussed with the expression, “eye of a needle,” suggesting, among other notions, that it may mean one of the gates into Jerusalem. But to whittle its meaning down in any way minimizes the incongruity Jesus meant to convey. Can’t you just see a camel with its big humps trying to squirm its way through the eye of a needle?

Jesus is rolling his eyes at people who think that riches are going to be anything but an additional burden to those who desire real life.

And always, always, as the barb goes outwards to the stuff that “they” do, there’s a mirror being held up to remind us that we too are -occasionally- really really stupid.

Jesus rolled his eyes.

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This entry was posted in Christianity, Church Planting, Contemporism, Evangelism, Faith, God, Jesus, life, Listening, Missionary, Morning Devotions, New Church, New Testament and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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