I’ve been viewing life with out Jesus recently. Okay… I should say I’ve been imagining life without Jesus. How would my perspective change? There seems to be such a strong reaction to him. Why is that? Why is it that after so many years people are still trying to wrestle with him? Why don’t people write books about Allah not being who he said he was? (okay I should rephrase… why aren’t there as many books as I’m sure there are a few.)
Why is it that the person of Jesus, the name of Jesus has an effect on humanity? Why does he effect us at our core? What is it that causes us to believe or to wrestle with, to discount or to simply seek to disprove? What is it about Easter that brings magazines like Newsweek to pull together famous Jesus followers with men or women who are atheists to discuss the exisistence of God and the person of Jesus?
So people often try to rationalize Jesus. “He was a great guy who lived life really well and I think I want to live like him.” There are others who will think he was a great prophet. “He had great wisdom, and his insight was laden with truth.” Or still others who think he made it all up. “Jesus didn’t really exist, it’s just a story that gives foolish people something to believe in. Or He is the figure of stories that teach a way of life or give a moral compass.” I’ve met people who think everything from Jesus didn’t exist, to he’s a nice guy, to he’s a teacher, or a magician to he was the son of God.
No matter what belief someone has about the person of Jesus, almost every person has a belief about Jesus. As we approach Easter, often people begin to address the question of who is Jesus really. That is where I find myself these days.
I grew up believing that Jesus was the son of God. He is the one who always has been. I grew up believing that I needed to have him as my personal Lord and Savior for me to experience eternal life. I grew up believing he was more concerned with the way I presented myself than actually who I was. I grew up believing Jesus was for those who lived life well and who had it all together. I grew up believing I had been a “good” kid so no wonder Jesus wanted me. He answered my prayers. He watched from a distant chair in the sky listening to prayers of people, disconnected and pointing out how they’ve failed him. I sometimes would get this picture of Jesus sitting up there looking at the lives of people and He’d secretly be condemning people as they chose him. He’d sit there and go, “oh you sure did it this time, you failure!” or even “I guess I can love you… you’ve got a lot of junk, but since you asked, I guess I can take you in spite of your sin.”
That was the Jesus I grew up with. Sure he came to earth to show that he loved us, but then since he did it and did it with perfection, he expected the same of us. Each time we’d fail, he’d be disappointed, write down our sin, and then just wait there with a magic eraser just hoping we’ll ask for forgiveness so he wouldn’t have to look the ugliness of our mistakes any longer.
So I continued to grow. I went to college. I began to ask questions. I worked in a different denomination than that in which I grew up. The questions began to morph. My perfect black and white world soon had shades of grey.
Then I went to Seminary. I spent thousands of dollars and 3 years of my life studying to know him more. There were times I felt like I had more questions than answers. I began to develop a new idea of who Jesus is. And his love and justice, his grace and his words calling us to live well, began to unfold before me in a new way. He doesn’t choose to love us in spite of our sinful state. He can’t help but love all of us. The secret hidden parts, the messy parts, the parts of which we’re ashamed, the parts only myself or only one other person knows… he loves all of those parts…. He loves me with all of those parts, because he’s seen the pain from which they come. He knows that which causes me to make the choices I do. His heart for justice and for me to live well are not a call to moral living, but are a call to love people and to allow my life to ooze love into the lives of others and myself. I’m surrounded by a love greater than I’ve ever known. Therefore, My love for him and my belief in him is richer and fuller and greater and more powerful than it has been at any other point in my life.
So this leads to Easter. Still I know many who don’t know what to do with Easter and mock it or call those who believe foolish. Easter… Jesus… how does one even write about these things without evoking emotion. How does one enter into dialogue about such things without causing a debate or a choosing of sides or begging of the question of Jesus, who is he and this whole raising from the dead thing… what do I do with it?
So in an effort to simply just write the ramblings of my mind and heart today I continue –
Easter and Jesus why do they matter? Do they?
A baby was born to a woman who had never had sex. A little crazy? Yes. Irrational? Quite.
He grew up. He told people he was equal to God. People loved him. Others hated him.
He did miracle after miracle after miracle.
He was killed. Buried. He rose from the dead. He showed himself off to the people he knew best and more than 500 others.
He then went into heaven. Crazy? Yes. Irrational? Quite.
We’re invited to follow him, because he is who he said he is.
We’re told we can experience the power and perspective which he carries.
We’re told that through him we can have a full and abundant life
We’re told he is the way, truth and the life.
Easter and Jesus why do they matter to us today? Do they?
A girl found out at an early age that she was loved by the maker of heaven and earth… she believed… she decided she loved Jesus too… she began to follow… her life would forever look different.
A different girl grew up in a home without God’s presence recognized. She fought for years against those who followed Jesus. She spoke against Jesus and his followers on an every day basis. She said she wanted justice and love for the world and people who followed Jesus didn’t know such things. Then she read for herself. She believed. She loved Jesus. She began to speak about the beauty of Jesus to the world. They mocked her and she kept walking. She’d fall down a lot. She’d get back up and ask for help in the walk. Her depression began to leave as she began to believe that Jesus was really who he said he was. She changed as she believed she was really who she was in light of Jesus.
She was new… she continued to love and seek justice.
A girl was filled with rage and anger against her family who all loved Jesus. They prayed and loved her. She got in with a crowd that also hated Jesus and his followers. She threatened to kill her parents. They pulled her out of the life she was living and lovingly showed her the face of Jesus. She hid her face from him. She couldn’t look or accept it. She eventually fell in. Her anger left her. She began to love and reach out and speak a message of love and life change. Her old friends didn’t like the new her, they thought she had sold out. One friend held a gun to her head and asked her to denounce the life change and the one who changed her life. She wouldn’t. She died.
A boy saw that he was worth something because he believed that Jesus was really who he said he was. He was a sad boy. He lived in a secret world of pain and agony. He believed. He changed. His mother too then believed. After a year of his brother mocking him… his brother believed. Now the three together love people and seek after the one who first loved them. They’re new.
A girl was sick. She had cancer. She prayed that God would take away her sickness. Her sickness never left her. She continued to hold on to Jesus even though her cancer continued to grow. Her ability to love others while she was sick led other people to see Jesus. Others believed. She struggled. She continued to believe. She still has cancer. She still believes. She is not alone.
A girl was in rehab. She had heard the story of Jesus a few years ago. She now didn’t believe. She had turned to drugs, alcohol and wicca. In rehab she felt the sting of loneliness and in the middle of her detox, she yelled at God. She cried out for Jesus. Her face changed. She saw Jesus. She experienced the wonder of the God of the universe loving her in a moment. She became new. She is still new. She still struggles. She is not alone.
A girl was mocked because she wasn’t skinny and pretty like all her friends. A friend left because she didn’t like the way her friend looked. The girl believed that people would stop loving her because she wasn’t beautiful. She believed that for years. She was rejected by a man and Jesus called out to her and asked her, “are you going to believe the truth or a lie, take your pick. From where do you get your value” The girl said you Jesus and her countenance changed. She was new. She still is new. She’s been rejected since that time. She knows she’s still new and has valuable and is worth it.
A man seeking surgery to change his gender because he believed he was given the mind and spirit of a woman cried out to God in pain. Jesus met him in his prayer. The man felt the love of a father that he had never known and saw himself through the eyes of Jesus. He saw that he was a man. It took many years. He still struggles. He is married with a daughter. He looks at himself in the mirror and sees a man. He is glad Jesus met him. He is new… he still fights the old.
A man was beat emotionally by his mom. He had to be perfect at home. He had to be perfect to God. He failed because he was human. He wrestled with the stories of grace. He failed, a lot. He was believed in. His family showed him love in imperfection. He is messier now. He still struggles, he knows he’s new. He believes Jesus made him new.
A boy was abused by someone who also said they loved Jesus. He couldn’t believe that Jesus was any good cause he didn’t keep “it” from happening. He later saw Jesus as the one who was with him during the abuse, crying alongside of him. He followed cause he felt loved. He for the first time was able to see that he had value.
A girl had three father figures. Her real dad, hit her a lot. Her mom worked a lot. Other family members chose a difficult path. She was ready to give up. She was ready to give up on life, on living. She felt a deep pain and darkness. She heard about Jesus. She ignored it. She later chose to believe Jesus was really who he said he was. She found a light. She began to live with that light. Her mom noticed a difference, her mom believed in the light and also decided to see herself through the eyes of Jesus. The girl continues to believe, she struggles with the reality of living and believing and how they don’t always match. The mom continues to search. She reaches to Jesus as needed.
A man abused as a child decided to prove to the world that he was man enough. He was a self proclaimed atheist. He was a scientist by nature. He sought to discover everything by ration. He had heard the stories of Jesus and thought it was all a bunch of, well pooey. His daughter was going to a youth group. A friend had given him a book many years earlier. One night, he reached out for God… not really knowing it. He found the book a friend had given him and read it cover to cover. He decided he had the proof he needed to believe. He believed. Slowly and steadily he changed. His anger began to turn to tenderness. His needing to prove he was man enough turned into a belief that he was enough in Jesus. Jesus gave him new life. He decided to pass that on to others. Many men are influenced by this man. He continues to believe. He continues to struggle.
The stories of lives made new could go on for pages and pages. These are just a few of the stories I’ve been invited in to. Does Jesus matter? Did the events surrounding Easter happen? Is it all a hoax?
That question, for others, I can not answer. I can only speak to the fact that once I was blind and now I can see.