A Vile Jesus

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  June 7, 2014

            In his own context, many believed Jesus Christ to be vile, disgusting, and repulsive. In fact, if you and I were to be totally honest, it is likely that we would have a hard time associating with a man like him. Disgust is really important for humanity. We depend on our sense of disgust and the associated repulsion from something we simply know to be so vile that it would cause harm if it were to make contact. It is human nature to avoid contamination at all cost!
            Contamination also necessarily focuses on the negative as having ultimate power over the positive. In keeping with the old adage, “one bad apple spoils the whole batch,” it only takes the most minimal contact with the source of pollution and that which was good, also becomes repulsive.
I remember one time, many years ago, I was sitting in a restaurant and I looked down to notice my salad was moving. Then, from underneath a carrot and behind a lettuce leaf, came a cockroach. (I know, gross, right?) I quickly alerted the server and, appropriately apologetic, she offered to get me a new salad to which I politely said that I would not be interested in any salad that day. It would not have mattered if I personally watched them wash and prepare my entire salad in the most sanitary of conditions. The mere thought of that roach in my salad was enough to turn me off of their food completely. That is disgust.
Such is an example of what happens when good things come into contact with bad. The quality of my salad did not magically make the roach clean and ready to eat. No! It was the other way around. Plus, as our mind makes strong associations with the vile nature of contamination, it was natural—and quite normal—that I would not have any more salad there.
Our strong association with avoiding contamination runs deep and has powerful religious roots. Based solidly in Old Testament Law, it was well known that to touch a person with skin diseases, issues of blood, and open lesions was considered to me more disgusting than having a roach crawl across your salad. Because of the pervasively negative and powerful nature of such contact, the clean person would be made unclean by the mere contact. Much of this attention was attributed to what we know today was a condition called Hansen’s Disease. Generally referred to as leprosy in the Bible, it frequently resulted in open, festering, infected, and even gangrenous sores on the skin. They not only looked hideous, they smelled repulsive. It was with good reason that people avoided contact with such vile and disgusting people.
One person chose not to avoid the hideousness of this fowl smelling and disgusting disease. Worse yet, in an act that would make eating a roach salad seem insignificant, Jesus actually spent time with them and touched them. Not only that, this supposedly holy man of God broke from the purity and sanctity of the proper Jewish community of his day to eat with the most despised, outcast, and vile members of his community. By the standards of his day—and in all likelihood by the standards of our own day—Jesus Christ was associating with the most wretched component of humanity and so he was probably considered no better by everyone else. In short, he was a vile and disgusting man with pretty repulsive habits in the eyes of many.
            Jesus was setting a new standard—one that goes against our natural and normal, not to mention religious, notions of disgust. Rather than completely avoiding the negative in hopes of protecting our purity, Jesus’ actions call us to anoint the vile by engaging it with God’s goodness, grace, and love. While that does not justify allowing the vile to take root in our lives, our call in Christ is to be with those that are cast out, despised, and rejected for being too vile.