Jesus was not nice.
He was compassionate. He was healing. He was amusing. He was ironic. But if you were a Pharisee, or a Sadducee or a Herodian, or a scribe, he wasn’t nice. Of course, if you were a Pharisee or a Sadducee or a Herodian or a scribe, you weren’t very nice either. At least not during the week before Jesus’ death.
During the week before his death, the leaders were doing everything they could to trip him up, to trap him with his words. They asked questions designed to make Jesus take sides in difficult political issues: “Should we pay taxes?”
They asked questions designed to make him take sides in theological disputes: “If a woman marries seven brothers, one after another, who will she be married to after the resurrection?”
They asked him where he got his authority from.
The questioners weren’t seeking knowledge, they were seeking leverage. They wanted reasons to arrest Jesus.
So Jesus felt no need to be nice. He answered questions with questions. He answered questions with theology lectures. And then he tore into the teachings of the Pharisees with extended parables and pointed speeches. He told stories of brutal tenant farmers. He didn’t name them, but everyone knew. He did a careful critique of every element of their teaching, from conversion to standards to personal practices, and was clear that he didn’t approve.
He called them snakes.
Jesus made it clear to the Pharisees that he knew who he was. Which made them more committed than ever to kill him. To stop his teaching, to defend their faith.
It’s easy to cheer for Jesus in all this, to joint his rants against false piety. But it makes me wonder if there is another parable. For those of us who think Jesus is merely nice.