The Gospels are Downright Embarrassing

by Ryan Leasure

Have you ever noticed that the Gospels contain an unusual amount of embarrassing material? It’s all over really. When you think about it, including this data seems counterintuitive to the spread of Christianity. After all, if the disciples’ goal was to reach more people with the Gospel, wouldn’t it have made sense to leave out the gaffes? Wouldn’t it have been in their best interest to portray themselves only in a positive light?

WHY THE EMBARRASSING MATERIAL IS SIGNIFICANT

The embarrassing material is significant for two particular reasons. First, this material indicates that the story of Jesus isn’t fantasy. Think about it. If they contrived the entire story to gain a following, they wouldn’t have made themselves look cowardly or ignorant. Nobody willingly admits humiliating facts just for the sake of it.

Second, the embarrassing material indicates that the disciples were trustworthy sources. They were committed to telling the entire truth, even if it meant making themselves look bad. If they only communicated the glamorous details, we might have a difficult time believing everything they say.

TEN EMBARRASSING DETAILS FROM THE GOSPELS

Each of these details rings of authenticity because of their embarrassing nature. Historians refer to this as the criteria of embarrassment — the notion that the embarrassing material is true because the authors had no motivation to make themselves look bad. At this point, you might be wondering about these embarrassing details. Here are ten examples.

1. JESUS WAS BAPTIZED BY JOHN

The ministry of John the Baptist included calling people to repentance and receiving baptism as a symbol of their repentance. That is to say, John baptized sinners. Each of the four Gospels, however, tells us that Jesus submitted himself to John’s baptism. Why would the Gospel writers include this story? Wouldn’t this make it look like Jesus was a sinner or less than divine? At the very least, the baptism gives one the impression that John was greater than Jesus. The disciples certainly recognized this dilemma, yet they included this story anyway.

2. JESUS APPEARS TO BE INSENSITIVE

No doubt, following Jesus required a lot from a person — it still does. Jesus said things like, if you want to be my disciple, deny yourself daily, take up your cross, and follow me. Jesus avoided sugar-coating. Nevertheless, when one person told Jesus he wanted to follow him, but he needed to go bury his dead father, Jesus told him to forget his father. Let the dead bury the dead, Jesus told him (Lk 9:60). Wait, isn’t this the gentle and compassionate Jesus?  Didn’t the disciples want to give the impression that Jesus was full of grace? This kind of statement doesn’t help their cause…
 

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The Gospels are Downright Embarrassing