How a Weirdo Changed the World

BY: CJ Casciotta

At the bottom of the mountain, they were met by a crowd of waiting people. As they approached, a man came out of the crowd and fell to his knees begging, “Master, have mercy on my son. He goes out of his mind and suffers terribly, falling into seizures. Frequently he is pitched into the fire, other times into the river. I brought him to your disciples, but they could do nothing for him.”
Jesus said, “What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here.” He ordered the afflicting demon out—and it was out, gone. From that moment on the boy was well.
When the disciples had Jesus off to themselves, they asked, “Why couldn’t we throw it out?”
“Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.”

Matthew 17: 14-20. The Message

The Sea of Galilee, taken by @cjcasciotta

The Sea of Galilee, taken by @cjcasciotta

It’s one of the oldest and most enduring movements of all time. It's democracy, the civil rights, the fight against the 1%, and the desire to make America great again. It’s the movement that started with one weirdo who attracted a small tribe of fellow misfits, and eventually transformed the world.

The magic in his movement is his restless, almost fanatical empowerment of others, those just “waiting” in crowds. These are the vehicles he fuels with a poppy seed. Like his father to Adam, these are the static combinations of matter and spirit he breathes life into and says, “move.”

Though utterly mysterious and at times completely paradoxical, the life of Jesus offers a sort-of playbook for movement making. Every movement follows a similar 4-step pattern in which 1) it finds what makes it weird and 2) it tells that weird message to people. After that, 3) it begins to gather fellow weirdos, those who resonate with its message and together they begin to 4) influence others (those who would not identify themselves as weird).

If you look at Jesus’ methods closely, he follows this process masterfully. Let’s explore each step.

Be Weird

This is an easy one for Jesus. He’s born among farm animals, claims he’s the son of God, thinks he can save Israel from being occupied without a weapon, turns water into wine, speaks in riddles, and says statements like “drink my blood and eat my flesh.” There’s a lot more but let’s start there. Jesus’ message was and continues to be completely oppositional to what the majority of culture is pushing.

Tell the Story

While Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Lewis, Twain, and Spielberg all deserve our credit, we need not look further than Jesus for lessons in masterful storytelling. I mean this guy coined the phrase, for those that have ears, let them hear.” That’s good stuff right there. Jesus spoke to crowds like he was speaking to his close friends, and spoke with his close friends like they had the power to speak to masses. He was incredibly articulate, bold, and confident in the types of stories he told, ones that left people asking more questions rather than stinging them along with trite answers, yet somehow making his point-of- view abundantly clear.

Gather Weirdos

One of Jesus’ first orders of business was to develop a crew, a posse, a gang. Instead of picking brilliant, capable, creative leaders of integrity, he went after working class drifters, test-flunkers, soon-to- be-traitors, and crooked auditors. Like any movement, it’s safe to propose he did this because he knew these were the types of people his weird message would resonate with the most, the ones looking to be identified, cared for, and empowered to lead the movement long after he left.

Influence The Others

At some point, every movement is left with the task of “hacking the normals,” or making their weird message applicable not just to early adopters, but everyone else. Every technology movement has had to do this (think about Apple or Twitter). The African American community is still fighting to make their message of equality one that everyone embraces. It’s the hardest challenge every movement must face. In the Christian tradition, this is known as “The Great Commission.” We see examples of Jesus doing this kind of “normal-hacking” peppered throughout the Gospels: the way he turns a wedding crisis into a party, his conversations with a curious religious leader named Nicodemus, up until his death sentence in front of Roman rulers who didn’t even believe in the Hebrew God. As much time as Jesus spends with those who “get” him, he seems to have a special intentional disposition towards “the other.”

The movement of Jesus is one of the most fascinating in history. It continues to buck whatever system seems to be winning with its weird message of ruthless love and self-abandonment for the sake of a world we all secretly long for, but can’t imagine actually existing. And because we can’t imagine that reality, he gives us a something we grasp more easily. He gives us a poppy seed.

@cjcasciotta on the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, taken by @philipleclerc

@cjcasciotta on the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, taken by @philipleclerc