Hosanna – Jesus, Save Us! A Pattern We Cannot Imitate (Mar-Jun 2010)

By Matt Dabbs

by Charme Robarts
March – June, 2010

My co-writers have shown that patternism is a misguided enterprise and have reminded us that only Jesus is a pattern for our lives. That said, what follows is my own admission that though my life is better than it would have been without his powerful influence, I am a poor imitation of Jesus. With Tolstoy, I must say, don’t criticize the way, because I so poorly follow it.

PatternismI’ve been uneasy with the idea of patternism for most of my adult life. As my co-writers have shown, the glowing picture of patternism is at odds with the results. The idea that there are patterns in Scripture that every (pure-hearted!) person can and will accept as templates for church polity and everyday Christian living for all times and places has just not worked out. At best the attempts have been misguided, and at worst fuel for division and violence among the people of God. Patternism with its strong attempts to control the interpretation of Scripture is among the ways we try to save our selves. In fact, the words pattern and patternism carry so much baggage that I prefer to set them aside.

Even talking about Jesus as our pattern gives me some pause because our interpretations of his life are limited at best, but perhaps the even greater problem is that it is so easy for us to blithely suggest that Jesus is our pattern, as if we actually do pattern our lives after his. Since I am writing this during Lent and have chosen to think on humility during this season, I am painfully aware of the fact that extolling and admiring the life of Christ is not the same as doing what he did. Even the early disciples who saw him touch lepers and raise people from the dead, couldn’t stay with him. In the end, Mark says, “they all forsook him and fled.”

To me, the characters Mark includes in the gospel story present a composite picture of discipleship. People on the road with Jesus are a mix of belief and unbelief, of stubborn rejection and shameless acts of affection. Four friends go to great lengths, even taking a roof off a house, to get their sick friend to Jesus, while Pharisees stand around demanding proofs. Some of Jesus’ closest friends argue over who is the greatest, while another person risked scrutiny and possible abuse just to try to touch Jesus’ robe on a crowded street. Jesus’ hometown people were embarrassed at his presumptuous teaching and on a very good day his twelve disciples cast out demons and healed people. One blind man could only see stick figures after Jesus touched him and another saw clearly. These characters are Everyman and Everywoman and, maybe, every disciple.

It isn’t that hard to understand why finding a good solid disciple is difficult. Jesus told stories and preached sermons that got him crucified. This outcome means that stories about His expectations of what it is to be godly were a little more upsetting than our interpretations may be. His eating with sinners, and talking with outcasts, and forgiving their sins, was apparently a little more than casual niceness or politically correct behavior — it signaled an inclusiveness that threatened the power structures. It can be dangerous to give dignity and therefore potential power to the underclass or undocumented, you know. His indictment of religion and religious leaders was apparently relentless enough that he had to go. No wonder it is hard to find a good solid disciple.

The Holy Week story that begins in Mark 11 has a crowd of followers going in front and behind Jesus as he rode through town. “Hosanna — save us!” they cry. Save us! Save us from what? As the story progresses, all the props and hopes for us saving ourselves come up short. The episode following the parade through Jerusalem is a parable about a fig tree, which Jesus enacts by clearing the temple of people making money off of religion. This is one of several indictments of religion that fails to save.

Later, conversation is shut down when Jesus affirms the right answer about what is the great commandment. “Love the Lord with all your heart soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself {of course}.” After that no one dared asked any questions — perhaps because everyone knows we can’t even claim to obey these two, much less the other six-hundred-plus the Scribes had come up with? Not to mention current church edicts. Attempts at obedience fail to save.

Government can’t seem to help either. Pilate is so afraid that he lets a murderer go free and has Jesus flogged and handed over to be crucified. Government fails to save.

The greatest disappointment comes when friendship fails. The disciples sleep while Jesus cries alone. Judas, caught up in his own designs about the kingdom, Peter, intimated and scared are named as failures, but in the end, as Mark poignantly states: “they all forsook him and fled.” I take all of them to mean not just the twelve, but all of humanity. We all forsake him. Friendship fails to save.

Where is the good news Mark promised to tell? Everything we count to save has failed. For as long as I have known this story, I am still moved by this part: when Jesus is eating the Passover meal with the disciples on the night of his arrest, he tells them plainly, “you will all be deserters … but after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” The darkness of that night fell hard, and soon Jesus was hung on a cross. Some one calls out for him to save himself — a request he ignores. Everyone in the world tries to save himself or herself – this is why we are in a mess — this is why we need to be saved. Jesus refuses to save himself and takes the fall for everyone. When the awful three days are finally up, an angel delivers a message that says, “tell the disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he said.” No failure here.

So, I am a little timid about calling Jesus my pattern. Jesus does what I cannot do. He saves. Thanks be to God.New Wineskins

Charme RobartsCharme Robarts has enjoyed a number of experiences in recent years including work as an editor at ACU Press, an adjunct instructor at ACU, and the Involvement Minister at Skillman Church of Christ in Dallas, TX. She has been involved in a number of community efforts to improve the lives of people in difficult situations and to support public school education.She spent several summers helping a medical mission team in Zambia. She and her husband Dwight have four adult children. They live in Fort Worth, TX.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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