The Stormy North Side of Jesus

by Tom Wacaster

It has not been all that long ago when being “into Jesus” was the popular thing for teens to embrace. Now, as well as then, Jesus was depicted as some kind of “pale Galilean” (that’s how one English poet described Jesus), gentle, meek, mild-mannered, inoffensive, and bordering on being effeminate. Anyone familiar with the Holy Scriptures, if they are honest with the portrait of our Lord contained on the pages therein, know that such a concept of Jesus is simply out of harmony with what the Bible says about our Lord.

Sometime back I came across this little observation from the days of radio. Most radios have a device by which the low frequencies and high frequencies can be screened out, leaving only those sounds which are appealing to the human ear. The human mind is much like that. We can actually “tune out” those things we do not want to hear, and accept that which is most appealing to us. So, if someone wants to believe that Jesus is mild and never offensive, always kind and never angry, he may unintentionally “filter out” passages that indicate that there is, well, “a stormy north side” of Jesus. This is precisely why Matthew 7:1 has become one of the most popular passages in the Bible, perhaps surpassing the oft quoted words in John 3:16.

I’m not arguing that Jesus is not kind, compassionate, or gentle. I would be a fool to advocate such and would place myself in the category of over reacting to the error mentioned already. Our Lord had deep compassion toward those in need. All one need do is read the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. How about the way Jesus dealt with Zachaeus (Luke 19:10)? Was not that a demonstration of great compassion and patience on the part of our Lord? Indeed it was! But to speak of Jesus as being “mild” leaves an impression that is not exactly true.

J.B. Phillips wrote a book almost a half century ago entitled, ‘Your God Is Too Small.’  I think his observation is pertinent:

Of all the epitaphs that could be applied to Christ this [‘mild,’ TW] seems one of the least appropriate. For what does ‘mild,’ as applied to a person, conjure up in our minds? Surely a picture of someone who wouldn’t say ‘boo’ to the proverbial goose; someone who would let sleeping dogs lie and avoid trouble wherever possible; someone of a placid temperament who is almost a stranger to the passions of red-blooded humanity; someone who is a bit of a nonentity, both uninspired and uninspiring.”

Phillips goes on to say, “Jesus Christ might well be called ‘meek,’ in the sense of being humble and utterly devoted to what He considers right, whatever the personal cost; but ‘mild,’ never!”

Unfortunately the minds of entirely too many have filtered out those things they do not want to believe about Jesus, and have conjured up an image of some kindly teacher Who is more of a ‘pal’ than a Lord.

The New Testament Scriptures are abundant with regard to this “stormy north side” of our Lord. Among them is Matthew 23. I wonder if those who view Jesus as a “pale Galilean” even know this chapter is in the Bible. Here is a sampling of what is contained in that chapter: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men…Woe to you, ye blind guides…ye fools and blind…for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness…how shall ye escape the judgment of hell?” (Matt. 23:13, 16, 17, 27, 28, 33).

Again, in Matthew 18 Jesus said, “Whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.”

When Jesus cleansed the Temple in Matthew 21:12-17 it is said that He “cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold the doves; and he said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye make it a den of robbers” (Matt. 21:12-13).

Now let’s make some practical application. It is not surprising that Jesus gathered about Himself men who manifested the same mixture of qualities as He Himself demonstrated - men who were compassionate, yet bold, sensitive, courageous, and willing to enter into the fray when truth was at stake. If we would be a disciple of Jesus Christ we, too, must see in Jesus His wonderful compassion, but as well, His stormy north side. If we fail to see both sides of our Lord, we will not be able to present to the world a proper portrait of our Lord. Yes, Jesus is kind, but we must never forget that He also has a “stormy north side.”