Was Jesus Really a Saint?
Was Jesus Really a Saint? Luke 19:1-10 Oct. 31, 2019
I think if you asked most Christians if Jesus was a saint they would say, “Of course he was!” or, “Of course he was saint-ly!” When they say this, what they probably mean is that Jesus was special. He was holy. He was better than any of us. He was closer to God. If you look at the definition of the word “saint” in the original Greek language of the Bible, however, a person could make the case that Jesus actually was the opposite of a saint.
What do I mean? The word “saint” is derived from a Greek verb, hagiazo, whose basic meaning is “to set apart,” “sanctify,” or “make holy.” In the history of the Old Testament religion, the idea of holiness or separateness was inherent in the concept of God. God was unapproachable in the tabernacle or temple by the ordinary individual, being accessible only to the priests and only under carefully specified conditions. If Jesus were to fit into this definition of what it meant to be a saint, then that would mean he also was not very approachable. He would have been seen as set apart and hard to reach or difficult to connect with.
But that is not the Jesus we see in the Gospels. Rather, we see a Jesus who seemed to be easy to approach. We see a Jesus who seems to let all kinds of people get close to him, including people that others would have considered unclean or untouchable. Not only is Jesus someone who people can talk to and get to know, but he is someone who actively approaches others so he can connect with them. The story we hear about Zacchaeus this Sunday is a great example of this. Zacchaeus is not sure if Jesus would want to talk with him so he observes Jesus from afar, from the branches of a sycamore tree. Jesus, however, sees him up in the tree and says he wants to come to the house of Zacchaeus and share a meal with him, even though others think Zacchaeus is a sinner and not worthy of such a visit.
So, we might ask ourselves the question, is it always helpful to view Jesus only as saintly? Does viewing him just as a saint make him appear less approachable? Does putting Jesus on a pedestal make him seem unreachable or difficult to connect with? Is that what Jesus would want or would Jesus want people to know that they could come to him as they are? Would he want people to know that he wanted to be the opposite of distant from them—that, like in the case of Zacchaeus, he wanted to actually draw near to them?
-Pastor Erik Goehner