It’s Sunday morning and your church is going up in a riot.
A crazy man from out of town is running through the entrance hall, knocking over the bookcases in the gift shop and spilling the money from the cash register all over the ground, yelling loudly and shaking with anger. Ignorant to anything more than the man’s name (because you have most definitely heard of him before), you turn to your friend and ask him to dish out more details.
He’s from a small town you’ve never heard of, but people speak of the town like it has a bad reputation. He is apparently a “teacher” even though he himself is uneducated, and he has grown in popularity thanks to his acts of witchcraft that he performs on a near-daily basis. He and his closest friends are all homeless, wandering from town to town just to argue nonstop with the local authorities; he preaches a message about the loving and goodness and holiness of God, but he himself seems to contradict this apparent “holiness” by constantly hanging out with well-known thugs, thieves, prostitutes, swindlers, murderers, and whores.
The next week when you show up to church, you are shocked to see that the man is there…again. Frankly, you are a bit surprised that they allowed him to return after the fiasco the week before, but perhaps the church is simply more forgiving than you thought, recognizing the man as merely a troubled soul.
Luckily, the man seems a little more reserved this week. He is sitting in the back corner of the sanctuary, speaking to a large group, so you go over to check it out. You are even more shocked to see that your pastor is amongst those in the group, but he looks extremely angry, as if he is about to burst. You don’t blame your pastor at all -- the troublemaker is speaking about him, and it isn’t exactly nice or respectful. “Your father is the devil,” he says of the pastor. “You blind guide…you hypocrite…” Your pastor is fuming, and you grow more and more agitated as you continue to listen. “You either listen to my words -- the words of truth -- or listen to the words of your pastor,” the man says. “You can’t choose both. One is of God, one is of the devil. I am the way. If you know me, than you may know God.” All the delinquents in the crowd grunt in agreement.
You scoff. Your pastor is a good man, the most upstanding man in the entire society. He is the most godly and good and righteous man you know, yet this homeless, uneducated troublemaker has the courage to sit in the very house of God and claim to be the true source of divine authority, even over your God-fearing pastor, who has for years obeyed God's Law to a 'T'? This is getting ridiculous.
“What about other beliefs?” you speak up. “Would a loving God really condemn good people to eternal punishment, even if they don't believe in the same 'Him' that you do?”
The man replies with another question: “Why do you call people good?"
"Because there are a lot of people out there who have done a bunch of good things. Given money to the poor, taken care of the sick, given shelter to those in need. If God is loving, why would He send good people to hell?"
The man frowns. "No one is good except God.”
“Okay then,” you say, annoyed. “Perhaps goodness is not the sign your God is looking for. How then would we go about following your God? Or, say, following you?”
“Death,” he says. “This is the only way. Death. You have to be born once again, become like a child; deny everything you are – die to yourself and all that you know –and strive to become everything that I am. Be perfect, just as God is perfect.”
"Our pastor here is has followed God's Law to its full extent day in and day out. He stands at that pulpit and preaches a message of love and obedience. What then must he do to attain eternal life?"
"Deny himself," the man says without hesitation. "I tell you the truth, unless you are washed free from yourself -- unless you deny everything about you and surrender it all -- than you have no part with me or God."
“We are in the house of the Lord, yet with boldness you say to deny everything that we are...even that god which we serve...just so that we can experience your...father? Your God? What of our god?”
“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires."
“Oh really? You proclaim to worship the same God, do you not?”
“I do know God. And you can only know God if you first know me. You do not know God.”
“And why is that? What makes you think that you know God?”
There was a beat of silence, then:
“I am He.”
At this, your pastor lunges forward and grabs the man by the arm. You grasp him as well, and together with the rest of the crowd, you carry the man to the entrance and throw him to the ground right through the double doors.
"Never come back again," you say to him as you close the doors behind you and walk back into the church.
The reason I wrote this scenario is not to blast Jesus or challenge his authority as God; if you haven’t read any of my posts before and/or you are new to my website, I want to make it blatantly clear that I 100% believe Jesus to be God. The true reason I wrote this is to serve as a challenge to you, to truly ask yourself why you believe Jesus to be God:
- Is it because somebody presented you with a well-worded sermon one Sunday morning that left you all giddy about the Savior of the world?
- Is it because you were raised in a Christian household, and since your parents said that Jesus is God, he must be?
- Is it because you live in the Bible Belt, where “belief” in Jesus is just an accepted thing that everybody unspokenly attributes to themselves?
- Is it because you heard John 3:16 on the radio, everlasting life sounded pretty good, and so you decided that this Jesus guy was a kinda cool guy to associate with?
- Is it because you’ve seen some good Jesus movies that portray him like a calm, charismatic cartoon of a man who spoke in poetic, sweet-sounding coos?
- Is it because you’ve put in the time, put in the effort, and put in the thought that it takes to truly consider who Jesus was, what he said, and who he claimed to be, and then, after all that, come to the realization and acceptance that yes, he is, in fact, God?
The reason I wrote this scenario is because I want to ask you this: If Jesus had waited to show up in our present day, would you have accepted him or rejected him? An uneducated homeless man from Lord-knows-where shows up in your church with his band of misfits – prostitutes, thugs, murderers, you name it – tearing the place apart and condemning your pastor, telling the very man who has taught you everything you know about God that the god he worships, is, in fact, not simply 'not God,' but the devil, the polar opposite of God. Sure, this man performs these strange miracles, but even then he does many of these on the day that God specifically called for rest. What would you do? Would you accept Jesus in his claims? Could this unconventional of a man really be the almighty, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the universe, having taken on human flesh? Is this really the type of human that God would willingly choose to become? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Him to be an upstanding and wealthy individual, of high status and much power, rather than the dirt-poor carpenter of questionable birth (his mom claimed to be a “virgin” at the time of his birth, but most people probably didn’t believe that) who didn’t even have a home to call his own? Would you be an apostle, or a Pharisee?
Or would you look past him without even batting an eye?
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…I think that we are all guilty here. We look at the Pharisees and scoff at their lack of recognition, but then again we also look at the Israelites after crossing the Red Sea and scoff at their lack of faith. We look down at David for calling Bathsheba to his bed chambers and roll our eyes at Jonah for fleeing from the Lord, but aren’t we all guilty of these same things? I don’t know about you, but I’m a pharisaical Israelite serving as both king and prophet – I am hesitant to believe, I am quick to lose the faith, I fall into desires of the flesh, and run away from those responsibilities I do not want for myself. I am a Pharisee. I am the Israelites. I am David. I am Jonah.
My challenge to you is this: Look at Jesus how he truly is and fall in love with him in a whole new way. Not the movie Jesus nor the Sunday school Jesus nor the watered-down, Buddha-like Jesus preached about in our churches. Fall in love with the radical, charismatic God who came down to bring both life and light to all mankind. Fall in love with the Jesus who stormed the temple the moment he saw that things were becoming more prideful than they were worshipful. Fall in love with the Jesus who put truth above all else, loving people through his straightforward facts and wisdom rather than with sugar-coated encouragements. Fall in love with the Jesus who spent hours with the "other" people, those people that everyone else silently looked down upon and judged from their lofty positions of status and power. Fall in love with the Jesus who didn't conform to society around him, but instead tore society down at its very frameworks and gave birth to a movement grounded in the reality of a good and loving God whose definitions of "good" and "love" are vastly different than those definition we have adapted in our own world. [Some of] the things we speak about in church and see in the movies are true, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much more to him. He was much more than just a man sitting around a campfire singing "Kumbaya"; he was a man with a passion and a purpose, living each and every day to its fullest as he ushered in the kingdom of God. He was so much more.
Don't be a Pharisee, but likewise don't fall into lukewarmness. Become a disciple. Become a follower of the Way. Accept your part to play in this divine romance that unfolds before us and don't turn our Messiah away simply because he isn't what you expected. He's what you need.
Will the real Jesus Christ please stand up?