Mama’s don’t let your babies grow up to be Messiahs

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I’m just working on a sermon here from Mark 8:27-33 – that famous passage where Jesus asks his disciples who they say he is – and I was struck by the insights of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.  Now they may not strike you as the most insightful of western theologians, but there are some stunning similarities between the life of Jesus and the life of the character in their song, “Mama’s don’t let your babies grow up to be Cowboys.”

Cowboys like smokey old pool rooms and clear mountain mornings,
Little warm puppies and children and girls of the night.
Them that don’t know him won’t like him and them that do,
Sometimes won’t know how to take him.
He ain’t wrong, he’s just different but his pride won’t let him,
Do things to make you think he’s right.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect fit, but just let that sink in for a minute.  Jesus loved spending time with the base people of society (pool rooms and girls of the night).  Jesus often retreated to early morning mountain tops, and embraced the children (clear mountain mornings, puppies, and children).  The part that caught me the most from this song and this passage was the middle two lines: it seemed no one knew quite what to do with him, and even his closest friends were often shocked and mystified by what he did. Them that don’t know him won’t like him and them that do, Sometimes won’t know how to take him.

In this passage from Mark Jesus asked his closest friends who they thought he was and they were far from sure.  They offered the opinions of others and stared at their feet for a while before Peter piped up and called him the Christ.  Even then only a couple verses later it becomes obvious that Peter didn’t really even know what he meant by calling him the Christ.  The Sanhedrin didn’t know him for who he was and didn’t like him, and even the people who seemed to know him didn’t really get it.

Now obviously, I don’t think it was Jesus pride that kept him from trying to win people over.  It was more his holiness and focus on his mission that kept him from begging people to love him, but even there there are deep similarities.  As with any metaphor explaining Jesus, it ultimately breaks down at some point as nothing can fully explain God.  The cowboy in this song is kind of a sympathetic character.  Jesus often doesn’t get the credit he deserves for having lived such a difficult life.  He was constantly misunderstood, derided, and wrongly accused in public and even his closest friends didn’t really get him until he came back from the dead.  That was a hard, lonely, life I’m sure and today I’m thankful he didn’t just ride away.

  1. Duane says:

    Are you sure his closest friends really got him even after he came back from the dead?

    Good thoughts!


    • benyamen says:

      Well I don’t think any of us ever fully understand the immensity of God, and but yes, I think his friends had the jist of it by the time he ascended to heaven. If they didn’t the church probably wouldn’t be here now.


  2. Duane says:

    or perhaps their misconceptions are why we are in the place we are now???

    using “their” very broadly – and including us — fumbling around and messing things up ………..and to quote a wise but human man, “God is just shaking his head and saying “those silly silly people.”


    • benyamen says:

      Oh, certainly we don’t have a perfect understanding of Jesus and it leads to many of the problems and squabbles we have. I do think though Jesus left his disciples with a functional enough understanding of who he is to build his church on, even if we do make Jesus facepalm from time to time.


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