Jesus: Introvert or Extrovert? (Luke 5:12-16)

A 4th century mural of Jesus from the Catacomb of Commodilla, Rome, Italy

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (New International Version)

Occasionally, I ask fellow clergy colleagues this question: “Was Jesus an introvert, or an extrovert?”

Let me be clear that extroversion and introversion are neither sinful nor blessed – they both are personality traits that cannot be changed any more than tiger stripes. That’s important to state upfront because some clergy make it about personal choices instead of inherent brain wiring.

So, setting aside the anti-reality kooky answers to my question, I’ve found that extroverted pastors, almost without fail, tell me Jesus was an extrovert. And they make a solid case for it. 

Conversely, with solid consistency, introverted pastors tell me Jesus was an introvert. And they give compelling reasons for it, as well. 

I believe the answer to my own question is that both are correct. Jesus, as the perfect human, displays the best of both extroversion and introversion. And Christ’s personality comes through wonderfully in today’s Gospel lesson.

This short story of healing begins with Jesus fully engaged in walking the city, a man of the people, interacting with the crowd, attentive to even the most marginal of them. Christ’s extroverted nature is on full display. Jesus, as the superb Son of God, is willing and ready; he fully heals the man from his leprosy. 

Jesus healing the leper, 12th century mosaic, Monreale Cathedral, Sicily, Italy

As the news of this people-centered Healer spread, more and more people flock to Jesus. An extroverted person would bask in the situation of having more people to connect with. 

However, the story ends with the note that, instead of engaging the mass of people and gaining energy from the crowd, Jesus would withdraw to quiet and deserted places in order to pray. I can think of no better description of an introvert that could be said.

Jesus lived on this earth in a way that modeled and demonstrated how humanity was truly meant to live. 

Christ had consistent rhythms of both human and divine engagement. He spent time with people – lots of them. The Lord talked and taught, healed and moved, from one person to next with all the seeming random activity of the extrovert. 

Yet, the Lord Jesus also consistently withdrew from all the people to be in solitude. He spent healthy amounts of extended time alone with his heavenly Father, deeply connected with him. 

We, too, need good healthy rhythms of being with others in effective and prolonged interaction, as well as extended time alone with God in silence and solitude.

Extroverts must understand that nowhere in Holy Scripture will you find that we have been called by God to be talkers. But instead, you will find a lot of biblical references on being called to servanthood. The Lord does not accept us because of our many words; God approves of us because of divine grace and the state of our hearts. 

My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring. (1 John 3:18, NCV)

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. (Proverbs 10:19, NLT)

And introverts need to appreciate that the spoken word, not just the written word, is important and powerful. The world was created through divine speech. Jesus healed with words that people heard. And conversations with others are the effective means of restoring this fallen planet to Paradise.

By speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ. (Ephesians 4:15, CEB)

Encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity. If you do this, none of you will be deceived by sin and become stubborn. (Hebrews 3:13, GW)

Perhaps we might encounter more of the miraculous in our lives if we emulated the healthy rhythms of Jesus. The Spirit works in us and through us so that the words and ways of Jesus on this earth may impact a mass of humanity that desperately needs Christ’s healing from a heart that is deeply connected to God.

Loving Lord Jesus, I am in awe of your capacity to engage all kinds of people, as well as your close relationship to the heavenly Father. Let me be like you in the ability to move freely and effectively between human interaction and divine prayer so that the church is edified, and the world is blessed. Amen.

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