Finally…Meet the (Real) Jesus

jesus faceYou’ve got to love Jeopardy. It’s the game show where people demonstrate their mastery of ‘Words That Begin with the Letter H,’ ‘Shakespeare at the Movies,’ or ‘Pets Behaving Badly.’

Am I the only guy who notices, or do a lot of contestants flub ‘The Bible’ after answering every other kind of exotic trivia category? I can’t verify this with hard stats. But I’ve seen a few cases where, after a blistering round, a contestant who literally owns the board gets stopped by ‘The New Testament.’ I guess folks don’t know Jesus facts like they do ‘Fast Food Frolics.’

The colorful sources people use to assemble their knowledge of Christ aren’t helping them win game shows—no Greek tragedy, of course. But when you factor in eternity, there are no consolation prizes. Knowing Jesus—the real Jesus—is an issue.

Most everyone has a biography of Christ in progress. As time goes by, default information concerning Him trickles into us from a lot of separate sources. Unfortunately, some of it runs off fields sprayed with pesticide, so to speak. I think of my own experience back before I came to faith. My main sources of information about God included movies (with embedded messages that made God look like Godzilla), friends with religious OCD’s (I’m talking disapproval of technology, the color red, and chewing gum), celebrities (some seriously loony views here), hypocrites (as in, “Dude, which is the real you—the Friday night or the Sunday morning version?”), and opinions from peers who had collected their views from a man who had a cousin whose girlfriend shook hands with somebody who said… .

Once input starts coming in from all these places, the product is going to be a rag doll held together with staples and duct tape. You could call it Jesus. You’d be just as correct calling it Gandalf. Or Hulk Hogan. Or little Lord Fauntleroy.

At some point I did what I had avoided doing for so long—I picked up the New Testament, the original source material about Jesus, and read it.

Consider the logic: here is a document written by people who saw Him. They claim eyewitness testimony. It doesn’t get any more direct. I read it. I said, “Wow.” That “wow” has echoed in me now for more than thirty years.

Later I convinced other people to read with me.  I wanted my friends to travel back to those dusty streets, get under that hot sun, and lose themselves in crowds of hurting, sick, possessed people.  And then see the solitary figure of Christ walk into those situations and change everything.

“We’ll pick a short gospel,” I promised my buddy. “How

about Mark?”

“Okay,” he said.

A week went by. We brought our questions together and things we noticed during our private reading.

“What was striking to you?” I asked.
“Well,” he said,  “Jesus seems to go after all the messed up people.”

“Do you think in some way God might intend those ‘messed up people’ to be representative of us all?”

“Maybe, but I’ve never had leprosy,” he said.

“True—on your skin you haven’t. But I’ll bet from time to time you’ve had some rotten, festering thoughts down deep inside—shameful stuff that you’d never want your mother to see. That’s the way it is for everybody.”
“So,” my friend said, measuring his own words as if trying them out for the first time, “If you look at it that way, the leprosy, the blindness, the demonic possession are all our situations…except on a deeper level.  That means the whole world is one big smear of people in pain.”

I’m watching my friend struggle with this and grasp for it. He’s getting uncharacteristically excited. His face goes a little flush as if for an unguarded moment, he might burst into tears. He’s trying hard to put his feelings into words, which He eventually does: “And…and…uh…Jesus is the only way out!”

Then in response to his own discovery, he says the word I was hoping he would say—”Wow!”



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