People don’t say it often enough: Jesus was pretty weird. He cleared out the Temple with a butter knife (so to speak), he laughed off death threats from Herod, and he regularly insulted his dinner hosts. Jesus held a patent disregard for social graces and conventions. When given the chance, he did or said the last thing people expected. He treated even the most benign requests as opportunities to teach something profound, often obtusely so. He must have been incredibly infuriating to be around.

When asked why his disciples don’t fast, he responds by talking about bridegrooms, patching clothes, and wineskins (Mk. 2:18-22). When asked why his followers were kind of dirty, he pokes holes in the whole concept of purity (7:1-23). When asked about people casting out demons in Jesus’ name, Jesus somehow directs the conversation toward cutting off your feet and tasteless salt (9:38-50). Elsewhere, when the disciples turn children away, Jesus compares them to the kingdom of God (10:13-15). One man’s query about how to gain eternal life becomes an indictment against the wealthy (10:17-27).

Jesus frequently comes off as social misfit, not only by what he said but how he said it. So often there seems to be disconnect between what Jesus says and why he started talking in the first place. If anyone today talked the way Jesus talked, we’d avoid them altogether–or try to have them committed.

Indeed, Jesus’ own family thought he was out of his mind (Mk. 3:21), and the scribes thought he was possessed by a demon (3:22). Perhaps they had a point; purely at face value, the man seems like he’s one fry short of a happy meal. However you slice it, Jesus was odd. Not like a crazy, conspiracy-theory touting uncle. More like an eccentric genius who’s operating on a different level than everyone else.

Jesus made connections between topics no one else saw. What seemed obvious to those around him was anything but obvious to him. He turned questions on their heads and threw them back on the questioner. He would set aside uninteresting topics and quickly pivot to better ones. Even in apparently simple matters you always got way more than you bargained for. Those who came to Jesus often walked away with more questions.

This elusive strangeness of Jesus is often missed by readers familiar with the gospel stories. We know how the story goes, and Jesus always says what Jesus is supposed to say. We make John the Baptist out to be the weird one of the cousins, but the reverse was actually true. John was a prophet; Jesus was something else altogether.

I suppose we tend to value in Jesus the things that we need and value in ourselves. In this way, there is almost a one-to-one correspondence between what we might request of Jesus and what he provides. If we feel unlovable, Jesus loves; if we feel insecure, Jesus is dependable. The miracle stories certainly validate this kind of approach to Jesus (and God, by extension). But anyone who actually talked with Jesus usually had a very different experience. Sometimes Jesus is comforting, but sometimes he’s confounding.

In the pantheon of different Jesus-es we worship, the misunderstood genius does not fall very high on the list, but perhaps he should. This Jesus fails to conform to our expectations while simultaneously surpassing them. This Jesus wildly resists being yet another example of our confirmation bias. He will not be coerced or outwitted, that’s for sure.

To ask this Jesus a question, then, is to discover a glimmer of God’s wider picture. We realize how little we know even as we come to know more. When the things we say we need are straight-up kooky-dooks, the one telling us otherwise is far more sensible than he appears. Jesus sometimes talks like a crazy person, but it’d be insanity not to listen.