Probably a blip on the radar for most everyday people, the passing of Pierre Ryckmans (pen-name Simon Leys) a couple of years ago, went unnoticed. He was a Belgium-born professor who taught Chinese history in Australia (what a combination), whose published works on the Chinese condition were standards for Sinologists (people who study Chinese stuff). He was also a character, once saying of historians who mishandled logic and facts: “to irritate idiots actually is enjoyable.” He also was a regular guy of sorts for having been a well published professor, and not afraid to critique his higher-than-mighty colleagues. On one occasion, commenting on a particular historian’s glorification of China’s mass-murdering despot, Mao Zedong, who had claimed Mao was a great philosopher, Ryckmans quipped: “One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that; no ordinary man could be such a fool.”
That observation reminded me of the Pharisees disaffection with Christ. Here was the Son of God and rubbing elbows with classes of people quite beneath a “teacher of God” (Luke 7:39; cf. Matthew 11:19), who flocked to Him because His teaching was so real, encouraging and, for the most part, simple (cf. Matthew 16:5-12). Jealousy overcame the religious leaders of His day, not just because of His popularity (Luke 19:39) but because of His teaching (Mark 11:28), for which they had no answer or rebuttal (Matthew 21:27). Their quibbles over (Matthew 22:23, cf. Acts 23:8) and revisions of (Matthew 15:4-6) Mosaic Law were the stuff of spiritual nightmares but when Jesus addressed the Law, His teaching came out plain and understandable; just common sense. However, the pharisaic and contradictory opinions that dominated religious conversation of the day became a point of spiritual frustration for most folks (Mark 6:34). It was embarrassing for religious leaders when the common folk recognized so quickly that Jesus had answers, and with authority (Matthew 7:28-29).
This is still happening today. When considering the teachings of Jesus, it is not required that one be degreed in theology or steeped in philosophy; common sense rules the day (cf. Matthew 15:10-20), replete with visual aids: “Consider the lilies of the field” (Matthew 6:28). Jesus said that we can “know the truth” (John 8:32); it is the “professional help” that complicates things. The traditions and contradictions in religious divisions always have their foundation in making difficult what is easy. Both in principle and in fact, God’s instruction to His creation is well within our ability to process and obey. Lose the religious “experts,” read the Bible for yourself and keep it simple. Jesus spoke to you.