Matthew 22:41-46 – “I Like My Jesus…”: What Talladega Night’s Dinner Scene Says About Us and Jesus Today

Posted: March 10, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 22:41-46 (Part 2)
Religious Leaders Cannot Answer Jesus’ Question

A great philosopher once said, “Dear 8 pounds 6 ounces… new born infant Jesus, even know a word yet.” And he goes on to say,

“Dear Lord baby Jesus, lyin’ there in your ghost manger, just lookin’ at your Baby Einstein developmental videos, learnin’ ’bout shapes and colors. I would like to thank you for bringin’ me and my mama together, and also that my kids no longer sound like retarded gang-bangers.”

Another time, he said, “Help me Jesus! Help me Jewish God! Help me Allah! AAAAAHHH! Help me Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off me!”

His fellow philosopher said, “I like to think of Jesus like with giant eagles wings, and singin’ lead vocals for Lynyrd Skynyrd with like an angel band and I’m in the front row and I’m hammered drunk” as well as “I like to picture Jesus as a figure skater. He wears like a white outfit, and He does interpretive ice dances of my life’s journey.” To further his ideas about Jesus, he says, “I like to picture Jesus in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.”

The first philospher’s smokin’ hot wife complains about him always praying to baby Jesus, when she says, “Hey, um, you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him, ‘baby.’ It’s a bit odd and off-putting to pray to a baby.” In response, the first philosopher says, Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grownup Jesus or teenage Jesus or bearded Jesus, or whoever you want.”

Of course, all of these quotes come from one of my guilty pleasure movies that I often don’t like to admit that I love, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and of course, all of these quotes come from the best scene in the whole movie, the dinner table scene. Back when I was single between marriages, my daughters and I spent a lot of time together as they mothered me through the early part of my singleness. One of the things that we did together quite often was to watch this movie. None of really cared for and still don’t for most Will Ferrill movies but this one struck a chord with us. There was a time no too long ago that the girls and I would weave quotes from the movie into our conversations much to the irritation of our friends. We would watch the movie and could speak the lines of the famous scenes in perfect synchronization with the actors on screen. So, that movie and its quotes have stuck with me over the years. When think about the conclusion of our review of this passage today and thinking about what the people of Israel had made the Messiah into in their minds, the dinner scene from Talledega Nights is what popped into this sick and twisted mind of mine. So, to refresh our memory, let’s read this passage again (Matthew 22:41-46):

41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

“The son of David,” they replied.

43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,

44
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
under your feet.”’

45 If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46 No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

These quotes are from a movie that will never be considered a serious movie, ever, and all of these quotes in the movie were intended for comedic effect. However, as is often the case with comedy, what make comedic lines funny is that they have some basic truth in them. The truth here, from the famous dinner table scene from Talladega Nights, is that in the absence of understanding who Jesus really is we will make Him into whatever suits us best.

The reason that Jesus makes that statement to the Pharisees and all others who were listening is that the common conception of the Israelites was that the Messiah would be a man descended from David. They viewed the Messiah as someone who would be like them but would be a warrior. He would be a blessed man who had God’s favor and who would drive out the Romans and re-establish the greatness of the Davidic kingdom, the greatest time in Israel’s history under David and then his son, Solomon, when Israel was the dominant power in the region. The Messiah to them was going to be a warrior man. He was going to be a king that would sit on a throne and he would vanquish the Romans and re-establish Israel as a powerful independent state. I am sure that some French, English, and German people of today can relate to that desire of these once great and powerful empire nations. Israel longed for a time gone by from 8 centuries or more before. They longed for that greatness and that the simplicity of those times much like we in America sometimes desire to go back to the simplicity of the post-World War 1950’s and early 1960’s. So, that is where the Israelites found themselves. They were occupied and heavily taxed by their Roman overlords. They knew their limits. Do anything that displeased the Roman authorities and they would suffer. They just wanted rid of the Romans and breathe easy again. Thus, the common conception of the Messiah had been warped and morphed into this nationalistic hero rather than the real Messiah of prophecy. They made the Messiah into what they wanted him to be rather than what Scripture clearly says about Him. Jesus, with this comment, is proving to them that their conception of the Messiah is totally misguided.

How often are we like that about Jesus? How often is the world in general like this about Jesus? Today, it is a common thought that Jesus was a great philosopher. He is seen as a radical rabbi. He is seen as a political revolutionary. He is seen as a peace-loving hippie. He is seen as an all-loving, all-accepting, whatever goes kind of guy. He is also seen as just one of the alternatives of many ways to heaven. Among the populist thought about Jesus is that He no longer has the monopoly on the way to heaven. He is just one of the ways. And, most of all, much popular thought out there just sees Him as a guy, not as God in the flesh, not divine. He is just a guy like Mohammed. He is just a guy like Confuscious. He is just a guy like Buddha. Jesus is just a menu option of the many ways to get to heaven. When we rationalize away Jesus’ deity, we make Him like us and we make him a dead man. We make Him so one like us. We then can make Him someone we can choose to obey. With tolerance of all religions, we can pick and choose what works best for us, just like the characters in Talladega Nights talking about what Jesus works best for them. With tolerance of all religions as being equal and Jesus just being a man, we can discard parts of Jesus that we don’t like and that doesn’t fit our lifestyle. In today’s world, we can forget the part of judgment for seeking out to live against God’s Word because we pick and choose. There is no judgment. Everybody goes to heaven. Just do more good than bad. Believe what you want to believe. It’s OK. God has changed it appears. He never judges anymore. That’s what happens when you make Jesus just a man.

Even we as Christians sometimes suffer from this conception that all roads lead to heaven and that other religions are equal. We no longer see the need to tell people about Jesus. All roads lead to heaven decays the need for evangelism. We don’t tell our neighbors about Jesus for fear of offending them. We don’t share what Jesus has done in our lives because we fear stepping on the toes of other religions. However, Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples. The basic tenet of our faith is that Jesus is God and He had to be God for it is necessary for our salvation. If Jesus is God and that fact is necessary for our salvation, then, where is our urgency. Why are we scared to share our faith? How much do you really have to hate someone to have a cure for their disease but withhold it from them? With our knowledge that Jesus is God and Jesus is the only way to heaven, where is our urgency. We need to share our faith. We need to tell people the truth about Jesus and who He is and what He has done for all of us and why it is important to make a decision about the real Jesus, the real Messiah. Jesus is not a menu option. He is the only option. All other religions are man-made and are about human performance, about us seeking a carrot that is just beyond our reach. Only our faith realizes that man is destined for hell in the absence of Jesus Christ, who is God and who came to earth and lived the perfect life and suffered God’s full wrath against all sin of all time on the cross so that you and I in our sin-stained state from which we cannot extricate ourselves would have a way to be reconciled to God and be able to be in His presence in heaven. With Jesus we are all sunk – even Hindus, even Muslims, even Jews, even Buddhists, even those who do not follow any faith. We are all in trouble for we are innately sinful and imperfect and we cannot achieve perfection EVER and thus are destined to be shunned from the presence of God in eternity. We need Jesus. All of us. Therein lies the urgency we should have to share the gospel daily where we live, work, and play, and around the world. People need to know the real Jesus not just the Jesus that they have fashioned for themselves.

Amen and amen.

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