All Different Kinds of Jesus
There’s Republican Jesus who is against tax increases and activists judges, and for family values and owning firearms.
There’s Democrat Jesus who is against Wall Street and Walmart, and for reducing our carbon footprint and spending other people’s money.
There’s Therapist Jesus who helps us cope with life’s problems, heals our past, tells us how valuable we are and not to be so hard on ourselves.
There’s Starbucks Jesus who drinks fair trade coffee, loves spiritual conversations, drives a hybrid and goes to film festivals.
There’s Open-minded Jesus who loves everyone all the time no matter what, except for people who are not as open-minded as you.
There’s Touchdown Jesus who helps athletes run faster and jump higher than non-Christians and determines the outcomes of Super Bowls.
There’s Martyr Jesus, a good man who died a cruel death so we can feel sorry for him.
There’s Gentle Jesus who was meek and mild, with high cheek bones, flowing hair, and walks around barefoot, wearing a sash and looks German.
There’s Hippie Jesus who teaches everyone to give peace a chance, imagine a world without religion, and helps us remember all you need is love.
There’s Yuppie Jesus who encourages us to reach our full potential, reach for the stars, and buy a boat.
There’s Spirituality Jesus who hates religion, churches, pastors, priests, and doctrine; he wants us to find the god within and listening to ambiguously spiritual musical.
There’s Platitude Jesus, good for Christmas specials, greeting cards, and bad sermons; he inspires people to believe in themselves, and lifts us up so we can walk on mountains.
There’s Revolutionary Jesus who teaches us to rebel against the status quo, stick it to the man, and dream up impossible utopian schemes.
There’s Guru Jesus, a wise, inspirational teacher who believes in you and helps you find your center.
There’s Boyfriend Jesus who wraps his arms around us as we sing about his intoxicating love in our secret place.
There’s Good Example Jesus who shows you how to help people, change the planet, and become a better you.
Kevin DeYoung, Who Do you Say That I Am, The Gospel Coalition Blog.
Athletic Portraits of Jesus
Athletes come up with creative portrayals of Jesus that elude modern scholarship. Norm Evans, former Miami Dolphins lineman, wrote in his book On God’s Squad, “I guarantee you Christ would be the toughest guy who ever played this game…. If he were alive today I would picture a six-foot-six-inch 260-pound defensive tackle who would always make the big plays and would be hard to keep out of the backfield for offensive linemen like myself.”
Fritz Peterson, former New York Yankee, more easily fancies Jesus in a baseball uniform: “I firmly believe that if Jesus Christ was sliding into second base, he would knock the second baseman into left field to break up the double play. Christ might not throw a spitball, but he would play hard within the rules.”
Attacking Others, Hurting Jesus
A young lady named Sally took a seminary class taught by Professor Smith, who was known for his elaborate object lessons. One day Sally walked into class to find a large target placed on the wall, with several darts resting on a nearby table. Professor Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone they disliked or someone who had made them angry—and he would allow them to throw darts at the person’s picture.
Sally’s friend (on her right), drew a picture of another woman who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend (on her left), drew a picture of his younger brother. Sally drew a picture of Professor Smith, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even drawing pimples on his face! She was quite pleased at the overall effect she’d achieved.
The class lined up and began throwing darts amidst much laughter. Some of the students threw with such force that they ripped apart their targets. But Sally, looking forward to her turn, was filled with disappointment when Professor Smith asked the students to return to their seats so he could begin his lecture. As Sally fumed about missing her chance to throw the darts, the professor began removing the target from the wall.
Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus. A hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled image of their Savior—holes and jagged marks covered his face. His eyes were virtually pierced out.
Professor Smith said only these words, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Lee Rhodes, Wheeler, Michigan.
But He’d Be Wrong!
Reporters Alex Alston and James Dickerson tell a sad story about a church that sought to integrate its ranks: The Mississippi Delta was in a tizzy over rumors that blacks might show up at white churches to worship. Some white churches hired armed guards to keep them out. Other white churches considered allowing them to attend services.
One Delta congregation, a Presbyterian church with deep cultural roots, was split right down the middle. Half of the deacons voted no; the other half voted yes. After a contentious meeting to resolve the stalemate, one of the church elders hurriedly left the meeting to deliver the news to his mother, a firm believer in old-time segregation. “Well, what did you decide?” she demanded. “We decided to let them attend services.” “You know I’m very much opposed to that!” “I know, Mother—but think about it this way.
What would Jesus do?” “I know good and well what He’d do,” she huffed. “He’d say, let ’em in!” She paused a moment, pondering the implications, then added, “But He’d be wrong!” Even though most Christians wouldn’t make a statement as bold as the elder’s mother, I don’t think many Christians believe reconciliation and integrated worship are central to the gospel and to our lives as Christians.
But it is. We need God’s Word to help purge us of these sins that keep us apart. And it grieves and frightens me to the core to hear a Christian declare that maintaining racial separation is a higher value than imitating Christ!
Suppose we hear an unknown man spoken of by many men.
Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too
tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some
lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too
fair. One explanation … would be that he might be an odd shape.
But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape….
Perhaps (in short) this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary
thing; at least the normal thing, the centre.
Communicating the Unsearchable Riches of Christ (is Difficult)
Famed pastor and educator A. T. Pierson (1837–1911) lamented his own human inadequacies in communicating to his congregation the depth and levels of the “unsearchable riches of Christ:”
“Unsearchable” literally means riches that can never be [fully] explored. You can form no estimate of them, and never get to the end of your investigation. There is a boundless continent, a world, a universe of riches that still lies before you, when you have carried your search to the limits of possibility.
I sink back exhausted, in the vain attempt to set before [my] congregation the greatest mystery of grace that I ever grappled with. I cannot remember, in thirty years of Gospel preaching, ever to have been confronted with a theme that more baffled every outreach of thought and every possibility of utterance than the theme that I have now attempted in the name of God to present.
Defining the Gospel
I’ve been reading Donald Miller’s Searching for God Knows What. Miller took this point to an even further extreme. In his book, he tells a story about one occasion when he was speaking to a class at a Christian college. He stood in front of the group and announced he was going to share the gospel with them, with one difference: He was going to leave out one critical element. He warned them in advance that it was a major part and that he would require them to tell him what it was afterward. He went on to describe the rampant sin that plagued our culture: “homosexuality, abortion, drug use, song lyrics on the radio, newspaper headlines, and so on.
He said that, according to Scripture, the wages of sin is death, and he talked about the way sin separates us all from God. He went on to describe “the beauty of morality,” and told stories, citing examples of how righteous living was better. He spoke of the greatness of heaven, and described it complete with a landscape of spectacular beauty. He talked about teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and all the supporting statistics. Finally he shared the caveat: repentance. How it would make life purposeful and pure and full of meaning, going into detail about “what it is they would be saved from if they would only repent, and how their lives could be God-honoring and God-centered.”
Describing what happened when he finished the lecture, Miller writes, “I rested my case and asked the class if they could tell me what it was I had left out of this gospel presentation.”
He waited for several awkward minutes. Not a single hand raised. No one could identify the missing component of the gospel. As far as the students could tell, Miller had been complete. Closing his case, Miller writes, “I presented a gospel to Christian Bible college students and left out Jesus. Nobody noticed, even when I said I was going to neglect something very important, even when I asked them to think very hard about what it was … even when I stood there for several minutes in silence” (italics mine).
Miller concludes: “To a culture that believes they ‘go to heaven’ based on whether or not they are morally pure, or that they understand some theological ideas, or that they are very spiritual, Jesus is completely unnecessary. At best, He is an afterthought, a technicality by which we become morally pure, or a subject of which we know, or a founding father of our woo-woo spirituality.”
The End of Human History
They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulture and guarded by the authority of the Caesars.
For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only lives, so they could only die, and they were dead.
The Greatest Imaginable Number of Readings
Jesus Christ was prone to making comments which seem to support an almost infinite variety of exegesis. A remark like ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars and ‘unto God the things that are Gods’ could almost have been produced by computer scientists working at the cutting edge of linguistic theory to formulate the single human sentence responsible to the greatest imaginable number of readings.
Jesus Did This Too
A few years ago, a vicious stomach bug swept through our community. (When you live in a religious community and one person gets sick, it’s just a matter of time before everyone else does too.) And one night it hit me: I was the sickest I’ve ever been. In any event and without going into unnecessary details, when I was hunched with my face over the toilet for the fifth time that night, I had a strange thought: “Jesus, did this”. Yes Jesus, indelicate as it may sound, threw up. He was a human being. In fact, he may have had even more severe physical problems than you or I do, since health and sanitation conditions were wretched in first century Nazareth. (Sewage, for example, would have been simply tossed into alleyways.)
Jesus the Irresistible One
In his seminal work, The Cross of Christ, British pastor and author John Stott describes the unique, upside-down kingdom instituted on the cross:
‘Irresistible’ is the very word an Iranian student used when telling me of his conversion to Christ. Brought up to read the Koran, say his prayers and lead a good life, he nevertheless knew that he was separated from God by his sins. When Christian friends brought him to church and encouraged him to read the Bible, he learnt that Jesus Christ had died for his forgiveness.
‘For me the offer was irresistible and heaven-sent,’ he said, and he cried to God to have mercy on him through Christ. Almost immediately ‘the burden of my past life was lifted. I felt as if a huge weight…had gone. With the relief and sense of lightness came incredible joy. At last it had happened.
I was free of my past. I knew that God had forgiven me, and I felt clean. I wanted to shout, and tell everybody.’ It was through the cross that the character of God came clearly into focus for him, and that he found Islam’s missing dimension, ‘the intimate fatherhood of God and the deep assurance of sins forgiven’.
Jesus the Only
We must continue to affirm the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ. For he is unique in his incarnation (the one and only God-man), unique in his atonement (only he has died for the sins of the world), and unique in his resurrection (only he has conquered death). And since in no other person but Jesus of Nazareth did God first become human (in his birth), then bear our sins (in his death), and then triumph over death (in his resurrection), he is uniquely competent to save sinners. Nobody else possesses his qualifications.
So we may talk about Alexander the Great, Charles the Great and Napoleon the Great, but not Jesus the Great. He is not the Great—he is the Only. There is nobody like him. He has no rival and no successor.
Taken from The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling by John R. W. Stott Copyright (c) 2010 by John R. W. Stott. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
Lord of Lords
Though lords still exist today in some parts of the world, the term is used mostly as an honorary badge, so it’s easy to forget what the term even means. Throughout history, lords were rulers who had authority, control, or power over others. In feudal societies lords passed their title from father to son, and their subjects were expected to give immediate and full obedience to whatever their lord ordered.
But Jesus is not just a lord. He is the Lord. He is the Lord of lords, the Lord of righteousness, and the Lord of glory. As such, He is more than just one of a few who rule; He is the Ruler of those who rule.
…Many people who came to Jesus addressed Him as Lord, but did not place themselves under His rule. To call Jesus “Lord” but to allow Him no influence over our daily decisions is to make a masquerade of our spiritual lives. He is not our Lord if He does not have supreme authority to direct our actions, from the big-picture decisions of life to the minute daily details. We cannot bring only parts of our lives into submission to our Lord.
…When we submit to His lordship in our lives, we can rest assured that we are in good hands. Unlike earthly lords who are motivated by greed and pride, our Lord is motivated by goodness and righteousness. Our best interests are intimately woven into His, so when we act on what He tells us to do, we inevitably do what will bring us into a more abundant life of joy.
Losing Faith but Missing Jesus
Charles Templeton was a close friend and preaching associate of Billy Graham in the 1940s. He effectively preached the gospel to large crowds in major arenas. However, intellectual doubts began to nag at him. He questioned the truth of Scripture and other core Christian beliefs. He finally abandoned his faith and made an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Billy to do the same. He felt sorry for Billy, saying, “He committed intellectual suicide by closing his mind.” Templeton resigned from the ministry and became a novelist and news commentator. He also wrote a critique of the Christian faith titled Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith.
Interviewed when he was eighty-three and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Templeton talked about some of the reasons he left the faith: “I started considering the plagues that sweep across parts of the planet and indiscriminately kill — more often than not, painfully — all kinds of people, the ordinary, the decent, and the rotten. And it just became crystal clear to me that it is not possible for an intelligent person to believe that there is a deity who loves.”
When asked what he thought of Jesus Christ, Templeton would not acknowledge him as God. Rather, he responded: “He was the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. He’s the most important thing in my life. I know it may sound strange, but I have to say I adore him! Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. He is the most important human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way, I miss him.”
Templeton’s eyes filled with tears and he wept freely. He refused to say more.
More than I could Believe
It was more than I could believe that Jesus was the only incarnate Son of God, that only he who believed in him would have everlasting life…my reason was not ready to believe literally that Jesus by his death and by his blood redeemed the sins of the world…I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the Cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it my heart could not accept.
From Mohandas K. Gandhi, Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Dover Publications.Who Was Christ?
“An Old Man with a White Beard”
My friend and colleague Keas Keasler, who teaches a class on spiritual formation, recently asked the class to close their eyes and picture God. After a few moments he had them open their eyes and, if comfortable, share what they saw. Most of them said the same thing: “An old man with a white beard floating in the clouds, looking down at us.”
Keas then said, “If what you imagine God to be like is anything other than Jesus, then you have the wrong image of God.” Jesus is beautiful, and so are the Father and the Spirit: “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 KJV).
Salt & Light: How Jesus Within Us Makes Us Flourish
In these two little Illustrations, C.S. Lewis demonstrates how a life of discipleship, of following Jesus, does not lead to uniformity and a drab existence, but rather the opposite. Jesus takes our lives and actually makes them more unique, more dynamic. Just as light shone on its subject is more brilliant than before and just as a meal, flavored with salt, enhances its natural flavors. The same is true with Christ, who takes us, warts and all, and turns us into something far more interesting and remarkable than we could have been otherwise:
Imagine a lot of people who have always lived in the dark. You come and try to describe to them what light is like. You might tell them that if they come into the light that same light would fall on them all and they would all reflect it and thus become what we call visible. Is it not quite possible that they would imagine that, since they were all receiving the same light, and all reacting to it in the same way (i.e., all reflecting it), they would all look alike? Whereas you and I know that the light will in fact bring out, or show up, how different they are.
Or again, suppose a person who knew nothing about salt. You give him a pinch to taste and he experiences a particular strong, sharp taste. You then tell him that in your country people use salt in all their cookery. Might he not reply, ‘In that case I suppose all your dishes taste exactly the same: because the taste of that stuff you have just given me is so strong that it will kill the taste of everything else’?
But you and I know that the real effect of salt is exactly the opposite. So far from killing the taste of the egg and the tripe and the cabbage, it actually brings it out. They do not show their real taste till you have added the salt. (Of course, as I warned you, this is not really a very good illustration, because you can, after all, kill the other tastes by putting in too much salt, whereas you cannot kill the taste of a human personality by putting in too much Christ. I am doing the best I can.) It is something like that with Christ and us.
The Three Options
With a certain oversimplification we can trace easily enough the three options open to Jews in Jesus’ day. … First, the quietist and ultimately dualist option, taken by the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran: separate yourself from the wicked world and wait for God to do whatever God is going to do.
Second, the compromise option taken by Herod: build yourself fortresses and palaces, get along with your political bosses as well as you can, do as well out of it as you can and hope that God will validate it somehow.
Third, the zealot option, that of the Sicarii who took over Herod’s old palace/fortress of Masada during the Roman-Jewish war: say your prayers, sharpen your swords, make yourselves holy to fight a holy war, and God will give you a military victory that will also be the theological victory of good over evil, of God over the hordes of darkness, of the Son of Man over the monsters.
Only when we put Jesus into this context do we realize how striking, how dramatic, was his own vocation and agenda. He was neither a quietist nor a compromiser nor a zealot.
Taken from The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is by N.T. Wright Copyright (c) 2015 by N. T. Wright. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
U2’s Bono made a striking statement during an interview:
“I think a defining question for a Christian is: Who was Christ?” He went on to say, And I don’t think you’re let off easily by saying a great thinker or a great philosopher, because actually he went around saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God, or he was . . . nuts. . . . And, I find it hard to accept that whole millions and millions of lives, half the earth, for two thousand years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter.
Not Like Himself
But it wasn’t just his new message that made Jesus irresistible. It was Jesus himself. People who were nothing like him liked him. And Jesus liked people who were nothing like him. Jesus invited unbelieving, misbehaving, troublemaking men and women to follow him and to embrace something new—and they accepted his invitation. As followers of Jesus, we should be known as people who like people who are nothing like us. When we invite unbelieving, misbehaving troublemakers to join us, they should be intrigued—if not inclined—to accept our invitation.
The Discipline of Dependence
I turn to John Wyatt [professor of ethics and perinatology at University College Hospital in London] for an eloquent expression of the priority of dependence: “God’s design for our life is that we should be dependent.”
We come into this world totally dependent on the love, care and protection of others. We go through a phase in life when other people depend on us. And most of us will go out of this world totally dependent on the love and care of others.
And this is not an evil, destructive reality. It is part of the design, part of the physical nature that God has given us. I sometimes hear old people, including Christian people who should know better, say, “I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else. I’m happy to carry on living so long as I can look after myself, but as soon as I become a burden I would rather die.”
But this is wrong. We are all designed to be a burden to others. You are designed to be a burden to me and I am designed to be a burden to you. And the life of the family, including the life of the local church family, should be one of “mutual burdensomeness.” “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Christ himself takes on the dignity of dependence. He is born a baby, totally dependent on the care of his mother. He needs to be fed, he needs his bottom to be wiped, he needs to be proper up when he rolls over. And yet he never loses his divine dignity.
And at the end, on the cross, he again becomes totally dependent, limbs pierced and stretched, unable to move. So in the person of Christ we learn that dependence does not, cannot, deprive a person of their dignity, of their supreme worth. And if dependence was appropriate for the God of the universe, it is certainly appropriate for us.
Taken from The Radical Disciple: Some Neglected Aspects of Our Calling by John R. W. Stott Copyright (c) 2010 by John R. W. Stott. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
Using Aslan to Explain the Gospel
If I am asked to break the gospel and a gospel culture down into simple statements, I would borrow imagery from the man from Northern Ireland, from Belfast, C. S. Lewis. From The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where we first meet the story of Aslan, we will find a few central themes about Aslan. It’s the story of Aslan, which is how Lewis told the Story of Jesus:
Watch the Lion roam.
Watch the Lion die on the Stone Table.
Watch the Stone Table crack with new creation powers.
Listen to the Lion’s Roar.
Trust the Lion.
Love the Lion.
There’s our gospel: it’s the saving Story of Israel now lived out by Jesus, who lived, died, was buried, was raised, and was exalted God’s right hand, and who is now roaring out the message someday the kingdom will come in all its glorious fury.
What Did Jesus Leave to Grow?
H.G. Wells, himself an atheist, makes this point about the nature of greatness as it relates to Jesus:
A historian like myself, who doesn’t even call himself a Christian, finds the picture centering irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man…. The historian’s test of an individual’s greatness is ‘What did he leave to grow?’ Did he start men to thinking along fresh lines with a vigor that persisted after him? By this test Jesus stands first.
What the World Says
If the world is sane, then Jesus is mad as a hatter and the Last Supper is the Mat Tea Party. The world says, mind your own business, and Jesus says, there is no such think as your own business. The world says, Follow the wisest course and be a success, and Jesus says, follow me and be crucified.
The world says, drive carefully- the life you save may be your own- and Jesus says, whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. The world says, Law and order, and Jesus says, Love. The world says, Get, and Jesus says, Give. In terms of the world’s sanity, Jesus is crazy as a coot, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without being a little crazy too is laboring less under the cross than under a delusion. “We are fools for the Christ’s sake,”
Paul says, faith says –the faith that ultimately the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men, the lunacy of Jesus saner than the grim sanity of the world.
Will I meet People Like Jesus?
His tattoos were flames that licked their way up his neck to his cheekbones. I had caught sight of him only from a distance while I was preaching, a visitor I’d not yet had a chance to meet. But this morning we’d run into each other on the sidewalk, and I’d had a chance to see his artwork up close. He explained that he was in his late twenties, a grad student at the University of California–Berkeley after a number of years traveling in various bands. He’d recently been asking questions about life that he hadn’t considered for a long time, and that had led him back to church.
He said, “I go to some churches, and they talk a lot about Jesus but little about the world. I go to other churches, and they talk a lot about the world but little about Jesus. You seem to talk a lot about Jesus and a lot about the world. I know lots of people like me in this town. I don’t need to find more of us. Here’s what I want to know: if I hang out at your church, will I meet people who are actually like Jesus?” Put to the Test Did you wince at that question? Depending on your own church experience, you may have your own response to this provocative inquiry: “Will I meet people who are like Jesus?”
Still Looking for inspiration?
Consider checking out our quotes page on Jesus. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!