Desert Rain... Finally!
In Your Twilight Years...

Jesus Mean and Wild

Wild_jesus_2 Now here's a Jesus you can really sink your teeth into!  Or maybe I should say: here's a Jesus that really sinks his teeth into you!

If you've been nauseated by the plethora of books out today that repeatedly espouse a compassionate, peace-loving, merciful Savior who reminds you more of a 1960's "love child" than incarnate God -- then here's a must-read:

Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love Of An Untamable God, by Mark Galli, has just been released, and is sure to stir up the pot over how we should understand the character and ministry of Jesus and how he relates to humanity.  Here's an excerpt from the Introduction by Eugene Peterson:

"In a free-market economy everyone is more or less free to fashion and then market whatever sells: cars, clothing, ideas, self-improvement plans, movies, books -- and Jesus.  When evangelism is retooled as recruitment, then marketing strategies for making Jesus attractive to a consumer spirituality begin to proliferate.  Words or aspects of Jesus that carry unwelcome connotations are suppressed.  We emasculate Jesus" (pp. 10-11).

Drawing primarily from the Gospel of Mark, Galli lays out a fairly thorough treatise of how the scriptures portray Jesus as anything but the "meak and mild" variety which has dominated much of popular Christian teaching.  Christianity has tragically become a "Religion of Niceness," claims Galli, where people are more concerned with happiness than holiness.

By drawing attention to Jesus' mean and wild side, Galli is not calling us back to the "cruel and arbitrary God" of a shame-and-fear-based religion -- something he calls "Christian fascism."  Rather, his book points us back to a grace found in Jesus that demands repentance, a balm that can hurt, and suffering that can redeem.

Jesus_mean_and_wild_3 In each of the book's seventeen chapters, Galli focuses on a gospel passage that portrays a Jesus who regularly issues stern orders, rebukes or castigates people, employs the use of shame and fear, and expresses exasperation and anger.  Yet, throughout all of this, the author shows how love is enigmatically at work.  As Galli puts it, Jesus "loves us so much he refuses to pamper us."  Here are some thoughts from the author:

  • Suffering is our preparation for ministry in a world of suffering.  This is not a world for shallow people with soft character.  It needs tested, toughened disciples who are prepared, like their Lord, to descend into hell to redeem the lost.
  • One reason a life of holiness frightens us, why an encounter with the real Jesus can be so unnerving: when he comes into our presence, we sense the chasm between his holiness and our uncleanness.
  • Sometimes the most honest and truthful response to foolishness or evil is anger.  Jesus couldn't have integrity if he was indifferent.  The person who is always nice, always decorous, always even-keeled is like a person who ultimately does not care about what God cares about.
  • The risk in loving the theologically or morally wayward is that we may become tempted to compromise our values to be nice to them.  But true love is robust; it includes compassion and confrontation, empathy and truth-telling, kindness and sternness.


I frequently run into people who speculate as to what Jesus would be "turning over" if he were to show up at the typical church today.  The most common item mentioned: our SUV's

Yet most people would never even think of Jesus turning over or "going after" anything.  He's too nice, too loving for that.  Well, I think Mark Galli is on to something here.  We need to recover a healthy and full-bodied understanding of Jesus....  one that includes his actions and words that may make us feel  uncomfortable.

"He looked at them in anger...deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts..." - Mark 3:5

"But when Jesus turned and looked at this disciples, he rebuked Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan,' he said. 'You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.'" -- Mark 8:33

"'O, unbelieving generation,' Jesus replied, 'how long shall I stay with you?  How long shall I put up with you?'" - Mark 9:19

I'm sure that you can think of one or two "mean and wild" passages yourself! 

If everything goes well, we will all get the opportunity to dialog with Mark Galli about his book here at Paradoxology.  I'm currently working with his publicist on setting up a date for an interview and a guest appearance -- right here!  So I'll definitely keep you posted.

In the meantime, tell me what you think in general about the concept of "Jesus mean and mild."  I look forward to hearing from you.

drawing credit: J. Raines


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"He looked at them in anger...deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts..." - Mark 3:5

It is funny that you mention this. I have a personal issue in my life that I have been wrestling with for the past year or so that I just cannot seem to surrender. Several weeks ago while I was praying and asking God to help me with this issue He said "STOP! JUST STOP! harshly, but also gently. He told me that He did not want to hear about it anymore. I was kind of SHOCKED! But you know, I just surrendered it right there and it has been a huge burden lifted off of me. I promised God that I would not talk negative about that issue anymore and I feel a real PEACE. I think that we need sometimes to be talked to harshly to get our attention. I know that I do.


Chris, would you just pipe down and let me keep my Jesus in his box where he belongs! :D

Jesus had very little patience with the so called religious of the day. He was quick to rebuke them with the strongest of terms, "White washed Seplechures"... Yet with a bruised reed He would not crush. He knew the balance and knew who to harsh with. God give us the grace to follow the Model of your Son.

Michelle, that's a great example. Wow!

The author, Mark Galli, would likely respond by saying "the fact that Jesus was harsh with you demonstrates how much he loves you. He was harsh with you because he loves you. To not be harsh would be to not love you."

Now you've got me realizing...
In the 70's we needed God to "step on our toes"
In the 80's we needed God to "get in our face"
In the 90's we needed God to "kick our butts"
In the 21st century we need God to kick the #%@! out of us!

Ummm... I'm seeing a progression here.

"Sepulchres" and "bruised reeds" -- thanks, Curious, for drawing attention to these. They represent an amazing "tension", don't they?

Curious has a very good point: With whom was Jesus harsh? I recall Pharisees, scribes, other Jewish leaders of the day, his own disciples. (He wasn't particularly harsh with Pilate, was he?) I think the church to often has the wrong object of its harshness.

Bald Man -- let's expand your list to include:

His family (Mk 3:20-35)
Certain businessmen (Mk 5:1-20)
Demonized people (Mk 1:23-26)
Ordinary people (Mk 1:36-39; 43; 8:34-35; 9:19)

You're probably right that "the church to often has the wrong object of its harshness", but who are you thinking of?

I'm thinking of the broken, the hurt, the sinful. Running through our combined list quickly in my mind, Jesus was harsh with those who opposed and perverted the Kingdom. e.g., the Pharisees and scribes who attended to the minor points of Law while ignoring the greater issues of justice and mercy; Peter and his family who misunderstood his identity and mission. He was compassionate with the leper, lame, the adulteress, stern in many cases but compassionate.

"the broken, the hurt, the sinful"

Bald Man -- yes, I believe you're right.

"Jesus was harsh with those who opposed and perverted the Kingdom."

Yes. I agree here as well.

And the ordinary folks who endured his harshness in Mk 9:19? They don't seem to fit any of the criteria you've mentioned, and certainly don't seem to "deserve" the harshness. What are your thoughts concerning them?


Mark 9:19 does kind of catch you off gaurd... but the rebuke for a lack of faith seems (at least in my mind) quite different from the name calling he leveled against the religious leaders. This passage shows us that Jesus expected them to have more faith than they did, it answers the unpoken question of vs 18 - why the disciples couldn't help. Rebuke yes but also a clear teaching of the importance of faith. Consider some of the sermons given to the Churches in Revelation 2-3, quite heavy.

Hey, here's a link from Christianity Today that has a chapter excerpt from: Jesus Mean and Wild: The Unexpected Love of an Untamable God
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Curious -- great thoughts. I think you're right about a difference existing between the "harshness" in Mk 9:19, and the stinging remarks made to religious leaders elsewhere. Maybe we should recognize that Jesus is not arbitrarily harsh, but is purposeful in his harshness -- both in terms of "who" and in terms of "how."

The content of Revelation's letters to the seven churches are indeed -- as you've pointed out -- "very heavy." Thanks for pointing that out.

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