FEBRUARY 14, 2019
A restaurant near my house has my favorite sandwich, something they call the Messy Pig.
It’s a bun filled with a heaping pile of pulled pork, two layers of coleslaw, jalapeño peppers, and pickles all covered with a delicious sauce. In other words, it’s full of things that I would never normally put together on a sandwich. Yet, somewhat unexpectedly, it works. Oh, sibling in Jesus, it works.
Sometimes, I think the church is like a Messy Pig. It’s full of people that I would never normally put together, but yet again – and somewhat unexpectedly – it works.
Think of those early disciples. Jesus hand-picked them. They weren’t on the team accidentally. They were there purposefully.
No, we don’t know much about all of them, but we do know a bit about some of them. First, Jesus picked the brothers, Andrew and Peter. They were fishermen, working-class blokes. Peter was a highly impulsive guy. When he got it right, he was really right. But when he got it wrong, look out. Just ask Malchus, the guy whose ear Peter chopped off with a sword.
Then there were James and John, the two Jesus called the “Sons of Thunder.” When a Samaritan village didn’t want to accommodate Jesus, they asked if he would call down fire on them. They wanted to incinerate Samaritan men, women, and children. Yikes.
We also know about Matthew, the tax collector. Tax collectors were quite unpopular in those days, despised even. They were Jewish men acting on behalf of oppressive Roman occupiers and were therefore considered traitors. They were often extortioners as well, taking more than their fair share from people too powerless to stop them.
Finally, we know about Simon the Zealot. Zealots were somewhat the opposite of tax collectors. They despised Rome and actively conspired against it, sometimes even with murderous violence.
All this begs a question. What on earth was Jesus thinking, putting these people together? He started the Christian movement with a group of relatively uneducated, highly impulsive traitors and rebels, some with explosive tempers and murderous thoughts – on purpose! Messy pigs, indeed.
Maybe one reason Jesus chose such a motley crew was to show that he can transform anyone. His grace can transform real sinners and real strugglers into real saints. He can change sons of thunder into apostles of love. He can transform impulsive disciples into those faithful even unto death. Maybe he wanted you to know that he can transform you too.
However, maybe it was another way to show that his Spirit can take a bunch of people who the world would never put together and make them into something beautiful. Maybe Jesus, from the very beginning, designed his church as a sign to an otherwise hopelessly divided world that there is One who can make us one.
Child of God: Jesus didn’t pick twelve disciples who had it all together. He chose twelve that made it abundantly clear that only he did. Don’t be too surprised or disheartened if the church isn’t always easy, or if things get messy along the way. The kitchen might be messy, but Chef Jesus is cooking up something really, really good.