Jesus Isn't For Everyone

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” Luke 4:18

“I really thought I would just sit in the car and stuff the muffler and just die,” she cried. She had just lost her husband. She was at the end of her rope. She so wanted to be with him and not alone. I preached the Good News to her. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. She clung to Christ’s promise like a rope hanging over a deep well. “I didn’t know I would ever be in this much need,” she replied. “This world really sucks.” 

We pretend that everyone is waiting for the Good News of Jesus. We pretend everyone has a cross-shaped space waiting for God/Christianity to fill. They aren’t. They don’t. Oh, they are lacking. They need Jesus. But many people have no clue they are in need at all. They aren’t scared of death. They aren’t carrying around guilt. They don’t know they are ‘under the law’ needing the freedom of grace. They are quite successful at avoiding eye contact with the abyss below them. Like the Pharisees, when Jesus proclaims, “the truth will set you free,” they say, “Free? We haven’t been enslaved to anyone.” (John 8:31)

They aren’t mourning. They aren’t poor. They aren’t hungry or meek. Therefore, they do not hear, see or need Jesus’ blessing. Jesus just isn’t for them.

So often Christians talk as if everyone is just waiting for an answer to their fears and shame. They are not. Recently I listened to a man tell me that he and his wife hold different views of the afterlife and it didn’t bother him. That’s completely illogical! I exclaimed. He wasn’t moved. He was unaffected by the possibility that he would never see his wife again after they died. 

Full of Desperate Messed up Believers

We pretend that everyone will be amazed by our smart explanation of life. They will not be. We believe that we have what people are looking for. We don’t. They aren’t looking for it at all. They are like King Theoden of Rohan in J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. They are under a spell that can only be broken by the Holy Spirit through the speaking of His Word. 

The church spends so much time frustrated that she can’t convince middle class families to come to church services regularly. We concoct all these ways to make the church more attractive to the two income, kids are going to U. of M., spend our winter vacation in Florida families. But they don’t care! They are doing just fine traveling miles and putting their first fruits in the offering plates of Hockey, Soccer or whatever manifestation of the American pursuit of happiness. 

They don’t want to come. They are doing just fine without the Lord. Meanwhile we make the messed up and screwed up people into our side projects. Like icing on the cake we brag about our peripheral concern for the needy. It should be the reverse. We should be full of desperate messed up believers and make ministry to normal healthy wealthy families a side project.

For sure there are people from all income levels who experience that desperate dependence on Jesus like my friend mentioned above. Desperation and need are not determined by income. But our churches are geared toward the happy successful family and not the drug addict, single mom, schizophrenic short order cook. That’s too much work and not a lot of payola if you know what I mean.

We should be full of desperate messed up believers and make ministry to normal healthy wealthy families a side project.
— Joel Hess

Ironically, Jesus didn’t spend that kind of time with people who weren’t interested. He preached the Word and let the chips fall where they may. As He said in his first sermon. Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the mourning. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the hungry. Blessed are those whose lives suck and they have nowhere to turn. If you think your life is fine, you will be completely oblivious to God’s hand reaching out with gifts of forgiveness and life.

Jesus hung out with the rejected, wacked out, mentally ill, convicted sinners. Why? Because they had reached the end of their rope. They had nowhere else to go. They knew they were in trouble. They had lost all their friends, their loved ones, etc. They heard “repent and believe” and they bought it like it was half-off guacamole at Chipotle.

It’s hard to say. But I pray that you, dear reader, know what it’s like to be guilty with a spotlight on you. I hope you know at some point in your life the feeling of complete despair as you are made to stare into the deep nothingness. For it is only when everything is taken from you and you are stripped naked by circumstance and God’s Word that you will hear Jesus’ soft voice, “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”


Rev. Joel Hess is the fortunate pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Cadillac, MI, where God’s reality pierces through our illusions by His Word, flesh and blood and gentle waters.  He is the author of many half written projects; a talented musician and artist.  His contributions to the Jagged Word deal with the intersection of theology, culture and the arts.

Joel HessJoel Hess